It’s been a while since we’ve heard from The Dave Matthews Band. Their smash 2009 album, Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King left some awfully big shoes to fill. After a band has been around for twenty years, you start to wonder if there’s really all that much more to explore. Particularly, with a sound as definitive as theirs, it’s easy to see how their albums could get stale. Their decision to include producer Steve Lillywhite, the man who was with them during some of their pivotal moments in the nineties, shows they knew just what they were doing.
Even from the moment Away From The World opens, you can feel the nostalgic energy that it brings. Like putting on your favorite sweater, it gives you a sense of nostalgia, but the tales on this album are of a much older and wiser man.
The disc opens with “Broken Things,” an introspective look at life from a more middle-aged Matthews, opening up about how life can be full of beautifully broken things, yet his heart is set on his love. “Mercy,” one of the singles that the band has been sampling in its live performances, has a strong presence on this album, as does”Gaucho,” where Matthews shows a contemplative spirit in a message to his children, and their generation.
With lyrics like, “There must be more than this, so God was born and we in His image of fear and love look down upon from up above.” It almost seems like he feels we want more than what this life offers, so we make up the idea of God to make us feel better. But he continues in a motivating chorus, “We’ve gotta do much more than believe if we wanna see the world change. We gotta do much more than believe if we really want to change things.” Which can be true to us believers. It’s easy to spout out our beliefs and opinions, but much harder to put them into practice and love others. It’s a moving and motivating premise that brings up a very valuable point.
But it’s the slow ballads that truly make this album great. “Sweet” a simple song featuring the ukelele, and also visits Matthews’ paternal side, describing the feeling of learning how to swim, and how you can sometimes be in too deep. The introspective line ,”And I’m too old to want to be younger now,” beautifully characterizes this album. It truly is a “sweet” and moving song.
But for my money, it’s “Belly Full” that is the real jewel on this disc. At a quick minute and forty-four seconds, it says it all. “Oh my love if I had my way I’d make your belly full and all your dreams would come true.” It’s the sweetest and most simple love song that reminds you exactly why you love Dave Matthews so much.
You’ve got to respect a band that doesn’t put importance or gravity on hit singles or pop charts, but values staying true-to-self. With twenty plus years in the industry, this band is still at the top of its game and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.