Devil may care

Dave Matthews gets by with a little help from his friends.

by Brian Stensaas

Fans anticipating Dave Matthews’ first solo effort to be just that – a solo effort – need not rush to the local music outlet and gobble up Matthews’ “Some Devil.”

While the debut solo album by the popular front man from the Dave Matthews Band was made without the help of his four bandmates, only one song of the 14-track disc is spun by Matthews and Matthews alone: the title track.

The others, including two versions of the increasingly popular “Gravedigger,” were recorded with a host of friends. Notables include guitar genius Tim Reynolds (whose mastery and mystery of the strings makes the mind wonder if it’s one guitar in the background or nine of them), Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio (who, along with playing on five tracks, co-wrote the music to “Grey Blue Eyes”), disc producer Stephen Harris and percussionist Brady Blade.

The inside jacket depicts upward of 50 small images of recording sessions, and down to the last horn, Matthews is generous at crediting his ensemble.

Add in a brass band, a gospel choir and a 41-piece orchestra on selected songs, and what you get is anything but the anticipated image: the one of Matthews appearing onstage alone strumming his acoustic guitar amid an intimate, smoke-hazed crowd.

Despite the host of complementary music to go along with Matthews’ solos, the songs are typical of what one might expect from the 36-year-old singer.

The track “Some Devil” is one of several epic, dark-themed songs on the album. The slow, pulsing whine of Matthews’ electric guitar guides the ears through a sad tale of a broken relationship. The chorus tells the eventual outcome “You said always and forever/Is such a long and lonely time.”

“Trouble” is another unhurried, mellow tune that is a wonderful example of Matthews’ wide vocal range. From his falsetto on the refrain to his deep bass spoken words in the middle, it is one of several examples on the album that explain why Matthews touches such a wide variety of listeners.

For those looking for the usual, head-bopping mantra of the Dave Matthews Band, simply play the first two tracks of the disc.