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Dave Matthews flies solo

Emily Tumbrink | Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Dave Matthews’ much-anticipated solo release, Some Devil, contains 14 original tracks, with Matthews’ vocals and lyrics taking center stage on each. Though he collaborated with many guest artists during the production of the album, including Trey Anastasio of Phish, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and guitarist Tim Reynolds, Matthews’ songs definitely possess a softer and more intimate feel than any performed by the Dave Matthews Band. Whereas most popular Dave Matthews Band songs would be characterized as rousing, energetic and jam-centered (think “Tripping Billies,” “Lie in Our Graves” or “Two Step”), Some Devil possesses a more subdued and blues-influenced sound. Many of the tracks are soft and meandering, and most would never be categorized in the jam band genre.

Two of the tracks on Some Devil may be familiar to fans of the Dave Matthews Band. “Gravedigger,” the first single from the album (a different acoustic version is also included), has been performed by the Dave Matthews Band during their regular touring schedule but has never been officially released on any of the band’s albums. “An’ Another Thing,” perhaps one of the most unusual tracks on Some Devil, possesses a striking resemblance to the song “Little Thing” from the Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds’ release Live at Luther College, but with the addition of strings and percussion. Matthews’ haunting vocals on this track seem spontaneously concocted and manage to captivatingly convey his emotion through mere sounds rather than actual words.

Most of the songs on Some Devil have a much darker tone than we are used to hearing from Matthews. Through the use of spare electric guitar melodies that often mirror the sound of Matthews’ unusual voice modulations, “Some Devil,” the title track, succeeds in creating a mellow and haunting sound. “Too High” utilizes the Seattlemusic Group, an orchestra, on strings and horns, further increasing the overall drama. Though “Trouble” may sound like an uplifting song, its title and lyrics reveal otherwise.

There are, however, some positive, upbeat songs on Some Devil. “So Damn Lucky,” one of the most conventionally “Dave” songs on the album, contains an optimistic message paired with an upbeat melody.

Apparently, Matthews’ main motivation for releasing a solo album was to have an outlet for the songs he has written that do not quite fit with the Dave Matthews Band style.

“I hadn’t really been thinking about doing a solo album until I had a handful of songs that didn’t really fit with the band, so I started with those and it just grew into a full record,” Matthews told MTV. “I kind of thought it’d be fun to put it out.”

Fittingly, it is nearly impossible to envision most of the songs included on Some Devil being played by the Dave Matthews Band. The stylistic differences between Matthews’ solo work and that of the Dave Matthews Band are striking, making the influence of the other band members on the overall sound quite apparent. Some Devil shows a side of Matthews that would never have been revealed in his normal working environment, and by straying from his traditional formula, he is able to prove to listeners that he is capable of creating a new and unique sound.