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Dave Matthews Band's "Whiskey" a toast to Moore
Fri Apr 10, 2009 9:44pm EDT
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By Ray Waddell
NASHVILLE (Billboard) - From the bluesy sax solo that opens the album, to the inspired songs and performances throughout, it's clear that this one's for LeRoi.
"Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King," the Dave Matthews Band's first album since 2005, draws upon a number of sources of inspiration: producer Rob Cavallo (Green Day, My Chemical Romance), the band's maturation and a focus on creating a studio project on a level with the band's potency as one of the most popular live acts in rock history. But it's hard to deny the impact of the loss of founding member LeRoi Moore, who last summer died of complications from injuries suffered in an all-terrain-vehicle accident after work on the album had begun.
"Everything was really hard after Roi's death," Matthews says. "But when we were all spending time together and listened to what he had already played, we really had time to think about him and be grateful for the time we had with him."
Violinist Boyd Tinsley agrees that the sessions helped pull the band members together. "You're in the studio and you look around, and there's somebody missing," he says. "I know there were some moments for me that were really tough in the studio."
Even so, the energy around the DMB camp is positive now as the members gear up to promote what they feel could be a career-changing album, due June 2 on RCA.
LAYING THE FOUNDATION
The Mardi Gras-inspired "Groogrux" began more than a year ago at the band's hometown studio in Charlottesville, Virginia, where Moore's skills as an arranger and idea man were instrumental in putting together many of the musical concepts that led to the songs on the record.
"We had two, maybe three sessions before he had the accident," says drummer Carter Beauford, "and those were the very crucial stages of this project, because we had to lay down the very foundation of this whole sound."
After Moore's accident while on a tour break in July and his death in August, the band resumed work on the album last fall in Seattle. The band took a break for the holidays and regrouped earlier this year in New Orleans, with final work completed at Cavallo's home studio near Los Angeles.
Returning to the studio after Moore's death brought practical as well as emotional challenges. "Besides playing the horn, LeRoi was a great band member, a great musical conceptualist," Cavallo says. "We missed his brain, we missed his presence. We were lamenting all the time, 'We wish Roi was here. What would he do?'"
Moore's work is all over the album, culled from performances he had already put in for the project. "We created a giant ProTools file that had all of his parts, even if he was just tinkering around during a demo phase off-mic," Cavallo says. "We scoured the hard drives to find all of these moments he had."
At its heart, "Groogrux" is a musically ambitious record -- and certainly one of the band's most accessible, likely not only to please longtime fans but to draw in plenty of new ones.
"If someone tells me, 'I don't like it,' I can say, 'That's your problem, because it's good, bro,'" Matthews says.
Highlights include the funk-rock rave-up "Shake Me," the stirring ballad "In the Hands of God," the swampy rocker "Cockadile," radio-friendly fare like "Why I Am," which features playful horns over a solid rock riff and a hooky chorus, "Funny the Way It Is," which parlays a subtle intro into a soaring, syncopated anthem, and set pieces "Skworm" and "Time Bomb," the latter featuring some of Matthews' most fiery studio vocals in years.
It seems everyone in the group was inspired to make a landmark Dave Matthews Band album, one that lives up to their legendary onstage alchemy. "I think we finally managed to get it," Matthews says. "It doesn't make sense that you could do something sort of extravagant live -- if that's where your strengths are -- (and) that you shouldn't be able to do something even more wild when you're in the studio. I just think we managed to find our groove." Continued...
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