September 30th, 2003
By: DOUG RUTSCH
It’s so easy to make fun of Dave Matthews. His songs are unavoidably catchy, his voice is weird yet still rhythmic, and of course, every single thing he creates sounds exactly the same. But say what you will about the Dave Matthews Band — even those who profess their dislike of his college-rock stylings have a couple songs they secretly enjoy.
But violinist Boyd Tinsley released his own solo album, and now it’s Dave’s turn for a little me time — proof that even the band members want a little variety from the group’s unchanging sound.
The results, however, are mixed.
What separates the Dave Matthews Band from other singer-songwriters is the accompaniment by Tinsley and the rest of the “Band” portion of the group. Some Devil is as predictable as it is droll — while the lack of the band doesn’t cripple the album, it weakens it just enough that its strong start doesn’t last.
To clarify, Some Devil is more than just Matthews strumming on his guitar. There’s still a band — it’s just other people firmly planted in the background, providing nothing but the most basic of scales. Other people are involved, but the focus lies squarely on Matthews.
And for the first part of the album, he comes through brilliantly. “So Damn Lucky” displays his power as a vocalist as he carries the song with the fluctuating force of his voice. “Gravedigger” comes next, which is more typical Matthews — a slow pace and a guttural tone that plays like a personal anthem imbued with intense emotion.
It’s always been Matthews’ personalized voice that makes his best songs, such as “Grace is Gone,” among others. He alone makes a few tracks here worth hearing — the otherwise-uninspired “Trouble” and the soulful “Oh.”
Other than that, there’s plenty of ammunition for the anti-Dave Matthews camp. Too many tracks lack direction and fizzle out within a minute. They are typical Matthews filler — slow backgrounds mixed with slow vocals leads to boredom. After a tremendous start with “So Damn Lucky” and “Gravedigger,” much of So Damn Lucky serves as little more than tired retread. Enjoy the singles, but the album itself lacks staying power.