For all the immortality it imparts, rock & roll has a way of taking its practitioners before their time. Like the Who, ? Metallica, and many more before them, the Dave Matthews Band have faced the sudden loss of a founding member: Saxophonist LeRoi Moore died last August from injuries incurred in an ATV ?accident, midway through the recording of their latest album. His spirit — and his sound — looms large, however, on Big Whiskey. The GrooGrux King of the title references Moore, as does the figure at the center of Whiskey’s intricate cover art (drawn by ?Matthews himself); his sweet, solitary sax flourishes even bookend the album.
Moore’s death is also undoubtedly the ? reason that a group best known for its ? jammy, freewheeling geniality floats some uncharacteristically heavy vibes here, ? resulting in several jarring tonal shifts. The tense, mournful ”Time Bomb,” foreboding ”Squirm,” and dopey philosophy-lite lead single, ”Funny the Way It Is,” all reflect — with varying success — on the vagaries ? of fate, while the swamp-rocky ”Alligator Pie” puzzlingly alternates grim references to Hurricane Katrina and shout-outs to one of Matthews’ young daughters. When the focus turns romantic, and at times even explicitly sexual, the horn-laden ”Shake Me Like a Monkey” and salacious ”Seven” play rowdy yin to the tender, intimate yang of ”You and Me” and ”My Baby Blue.” Throughout, the spectre of death rarely recedes, but life — embodied by the proto-DMB revelry of ”Why I Am” — still prevails. B
Download This: Listen to the song Time Bomb at last.fm