Customer Reviews: Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King
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on June 4, 2009
"These songs are some of the strongest ones we've done in a long time."
- Boyd Tinsley

"He [Leroi Moore] would always say, `Take it to the next level.' That's what we've done here. We've taken it to the next level."
- Dave Matthews

"It was time to unleash the tiger."
- Carter Beauford


The first time I heard songs from "Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King" was at the May 29 show at Fenway Park. Listening to live versions of songs like "Seven," "Why I Am," "Squirm," and "Time Bomb" immediately had me and my friends thinking "Whoah... this album is different. This album is going to be GOOOOOD!"

And it is. It's REAL good. I've been listening to the CD for a solid week, and I can say that it is, by far, DMB's best album in over a decade. They haven't played with this level of passion and tenacity since their back-to-back classics "Crash" and "Before These Crowded Streets" from the late 90s.

It's not hard to figure out where the intensity comes from. In 2008, DMB experienced a serious double whammy. First, they nearly broke up due to interpersonal struggles, "toxic" energy, and a lack of leadership (according to Dave). This was followed by the tragic death of founding member and horn-player extraordinaire Leroi Moore.

The result? A massive reboot of purpose and energy. With the help of Green Day producer Rob Cavallo, the Dave Matthews Band has once again found their "A" game. "Big Whiskey" is the sound of a band that is NOT mailing it in... instead, they sound like musicians that are psyched to play together and ready to go for it (to "unleash the tiger," as Carter says in the DVD documentary.)

The opening notes of the CD is a sublime Leroi solo, a voice from the past calling us forward. Then we plunge into the wall of sound that is "Shake Me Like a Monkey." It's a wonderfully funky stew - with Stefan's meaty, thumping bass line punctuated by Rashawn Ross's crisp trumpet and spiced up by Dave's tasty, hilarious lyrics ("I like coffee with toast and jelly. But I'd rather be licking from your back to your belly.")

"Funny The Way It Is," the CD's first single, was a perfect opening song for the Fenway concert ("Lying in the park on a beautiful day. Sunshine in the grass, and the children play.") It's an agreeable little song that gets under your skin and doesn't let go. It has the same joyous, carefree energy of their 90's hit "Stay (Wasting Time)." I keep finding myself unconsciously humming it throughout the day.

"Lying In The Hands Of God" is just plain gorgeous. Dave's voice lazily drifts along... weaving in and around acoustic guitar, flute, clarinet, and an assortment of angelic voices. It is sublime surrender into the hands of Dave. Why resist?

"Why I Am" is, in my opinion, the album's stand out cut. Tim Reynolds' pulsing electric guitar gives it a ferocious, propulsive beat that sounds unlike anything DMB has done before (DMB `plugged'!!!) It's also the song that gives the album its name. "GrooGrux King" was one of Leroi's nicknames, and the song honors him in numerous ways. ("Still here dancing here with the GrooGrux King. We'll be drinking Big Whiskey while we dance and sing.") Much of the album was recorded in New Orleans - one of Leroi's favorite places - and this song would fit right in at a Mardi Gras celebration... as would "Alligator Pie," a song that Dave wrote for his daughter Stella. Evidently, he has included his other daughter's name (Grace) in songs several times, so Stella said, "Daddy, when you gonna put ME in a song?" This one's for you, Stella. It's driven by a frisky banjo and Carter Beauford's shufflin' beat - it could be the Cajun sibling to "Louisiana Bayou" from the last album "Stand Up." I can't wait to see what they do with this when they play it live. The crowd is going to go CRAZY.

Listen to "Seven" and see if you can figure out what makes it different from just about any song that you've every heard... It begins with electric guitar power chords that would make Aerosmith proud (thank you, Tim Reynolds!) and then it slips into something wonderfully strange. As Dave croons his suggestive lyrics about wishing that his boyhood innocence could have been informed by his adult wisdom ("I never knew what I do now"), notice that the song's odd rhythms are created with SEVEN beats to the measure. Not four. Not three. Seven! It gives the song a cool awkwardness that perfectly matches its subject matter. Just don't try to dance to it, because that missing `beat' will wreak havoc with your groove. It reminds me of The Pretender's classic "Tattooed Love Boys", which had seven beats to the measure every other measure.

I also LOVE the ominous crescendos of "Squirm," the beautiful, lilting "Baby Blue," and the plaintive wail in "Time Bomb" ("Baby when I get home, I wanna believe in Jesus. Hammer in the final nail, Help me pick up the pieces.") And be sure to wait for appx. 40 seconds after the final song, "You & Me," is over to hear a final little ditty by Leroi.

The bottom line? A great album, a fitting tribute to Leroi, and a huge sigh of relief for DMB fans everywhere, knowing that Dave and the boys did NOT break up but instead are now making some of the best music of their prolific careers. Why I am? It's why they are. We all get to dance with the GrooGrux King!
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on June 2, 2009
First of all, let me just say that I am NOT one of those sycophants who automatically give anything by Dave Matthews Band five stars and just rave about how they're the best and anything they do is just the greatest thing ever. While I don't think "Stand Up" and "Everyday" were as bad as some of the reviews I've read, those albums were obviously not their best work. So I was anxious (and a little nervous) to see what this album would bring.
I needn't have worried; Dave Matthews Band are back with a vengeance. There is an energy, a vibe, a passion, a groove that is present on this album that had been missing on the stuff that followed "Before These Crowded Streets". I've read that there were tensions in the band over the last couple years, and that at one point they were on the verge of breaking up. If that's the case, I guess it's true that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. After "Grux", a prelude showcasing since-departed saxophonist LeRoi Moore, the album kicks right into "Shake Me Like a Monkey", a flat-out rocker that allows the whole band to shine. After that, the album never really lets up; other stand-out tracks include "Funny the Way It Is", "Why I Am", "Alligator Pie" and "Seven". There are others great songs too but I've only listened to the album once so I haven't tied all the titles to all the songs yet.
Bottom line: if you've ever liked Dave Matthews Band at any point in their history, you will really like this album. They've got their fire back, and they know it: I watched the show they did at the Beacon Theatre in NYC last night, and you can really tell they love these songs and are having fun playing together again. Pick this album up, and I promise you won't be disappointed.
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on June 25, 2009
I bought the Deluxe edition with the "Making of Big Whiskey" DVD. I wanted to share what's on the DVD since it's not specified on Amazon. That way, you can make your own determination whether you want to pay extra for it:

Runtime - 29:17

Packaging - Trifold with artwork on all panels. CD in one panel, lyrics and liner notes booklet in middle panel and DVD in last panel.

Contents - Behind the scenes look at the making of the album. Consists mostly of interviews with all bandmates, producer and session musicians interspersed with snippets of the recording sessions at different studios around the country. There are no full-length videos of complete songs. You get the gist of how the album was put together, but it's not a completely linear narrative, more like snapshots.

About 17 minutes in, the DVD becomes a tribute to late bandmate Leroi Moore. Some of the bandmates' remembrances are very touching. There are also some interesting tidbits, like Dave Matthews drew the cover artwork and the GrooGrux King bears a slight resemblance to Moore.

Altogether, it was enjoyable viewing, especially for someone like me who doesn't always read the fine print in the liner notes. However, I doubt I will be viewing it over and over like a performance video.
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on June 2, 2009
After Stand Up came out a couple of years ago, I thought my love for the Dave Matthews Band had run its course. While that album eventually grew on me, it was easily the band's weakest album to date (including Everyday, which was actually just wasn't The Lillywhite Sessions).

Now some critics out there are calling this "The Best Album Yet" and I won't go that far: Before These Crowded Streets was a masterpiece. If anything, this album is a second masterpiece. Springsteen had Nebraska and Born to Run, U2 had the Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby. This album succeeds in a way that most bands' best albums succeed: This album is familiar...but at the same time, remarkably different.

Where BTCS utilized cellos and other stringed instruments to create a very dark feel, this album is all about Stefan and Carter. It is the good way...and that isn't an hear Cameo screaming at you in the opening riffs of the first track...BTCS was polished...this album is raw. They complement each other perfectly in the band's repertoire.

What sets this apart from Remember Two Things, Under the Table and Dreaming, Crash, Everyday, Busted Stuff and Stand Up is that this album is simply album. Whereas the others were compilations of songs recorded at the same time and placed on the same CD without too much rhyme and reason (see what I did there?)...this album, like BTCS, is masterful when listened to as a whole.
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on June 5, 2009
Giving us their best album since Before These Crowded Streets, DMB has delivered a complete record that works on every level. I hesitate to call it their best, but it really is close. It's better than anything they've done in a decade by a long shot, and is on par with the excellent work from their revered first three albums. There is not a weak one in the bunch. Every time I listen to it I get a new favorite. From the opening notes of Roi's sax on "Grux" that segues into the great rocker "Shake Me Like a Monkey" through, well, the whole album, everything works. Personal favorites (aside from the aforementioned) are "Seven", "Squirm", "Dive In" and "Lying in the Hands of God." Part of the success of the album has got to go to Tim Reynolds. I just can't put it down as a coincidence that the four great albums the band have done were the four that included contributions by Tim.

As for this set, however, if you can afford the extra bucks, there are several goodies worth your while. First up is the bonus disc, with four songs: "#27", a frequent staple from recent live shows, this studio version captures the energy from the live performance well; "Beach Ball", a fun, bouncy little number, like its title; "Little Red Bird", an acoustic piece that would be well suited to a Dave and Tim show; and "Write A Song," a song that hasn't really grown on me yet (maybe there's an irony to the title?): about the only song between the album and the bonus disc I'm not too crazy about, but 16/17 is a pretty good ratio.

Next up is the "Scenes from Big Whiskey" DVD, a 30 minute making of DVD that is surprisingly candid about the problems the band had been having, Roi's death, and the inner workings on how the songs on the album were formed. I usually find myself disappointed with the DVDs that come with new albums these days, as they seem more like promotional fluff pieces for an album you've already bought, but this one isn't. This is actually worth taking a look at.

You also get a photo book titled simply "Roi." This is a very nice collection of great Roi pics on nice glossy pages. I especially liked the early pics of him performing on stage when the band was just beginning.

If that's not enough, you also get a very large book called "Grux Pix" that is another photo book of the entire band. Large in height and width, if not in thickness, running 36 pages, it collects pics of the band through the years, and includes some nice shots of the band in the studio working on the new album. A nice touch, I thought, was that not only did the "The Band" section include shots of Roi, but also Rashawn, Jeff and Tim.

Lastly, there is pretty much every page from the GrooGrux album booklet blown up to mammoth size (almost the same dimensions as the large "Groo Pix" book, actually, just not quite as wide) and available separately, but wrapped in a band to hold them together. There is also the album cover art on a plain white sheet, with the lines stenciled in but no color added. I guess in case you wanted to do your own coloring? Honestly not sure why this is in there.

The box itself is nice and sturdy. I was concerned that it might be flimsy, that it might get banged up during shipping. Not to worry. It came in perfect condition.

In this day and age, it can be hard justifying paying so much for an album. It certainly was for me. Of all the box sets I've been seeing artists putting out for new albums recently, however, I think this is one of the better ones. If you can afford it, I think it's worth it. If not, however, there is certainly nothing wrong with just getting the album.
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on June 8, 2009
So, DMB plucked me from the depths of listening to Nirvana back in the 90s, but after listening to them for so long its hard perhaps to keep some of the older songs from growing stale in my mind. There are only so many times you can "rediscover" an old song. Yes, I was alive for ;) album releases like Under the Table and Dreaming and Crash. I've seen them 7 or 8 times in concert. But like a DMB junkie on the sauce too long perhaps all I can ever do is maintain. Perhaps I'm so addicted I can't experience a DMB high anymore; maybe I've lost the ability to experience a "wow" the first time I listen to one of their albums? This is despite the fact that I've been going cold turkey on DMB for longer and longer periods, seemingly without trying. Releasing live album after live album did little to relieve any shakes and cravings. While different from stand up (I'll avoid any analogies to bad trips, etc.), I can't say this album is a new direction either. While I won't say I didn't tap my toes, I found myself struggling and having to try hard to get in to it, and wishing for a DMB album that would make me say "wow" again. This wasn't it, but it wasn't so bad that I'll go completely cold turkey (yet). As for the best album yet quote advertised from Rolling Stone, I really do wish I had some of the DMB they were smoking when they apparently printed that. If you're a DMB fan, I wouldn't pass on this album, but I wouldn't approach it with high expectations. If you're new to DMB, I wouldn't make this one of your first choices. If you don't own some of their older stuff then go there first, so you'll know just how intoxicating DMB can be. Yes, I rated this album a 3/5 on Amazon but that is compared to what I see as DMB's past performance and their potential for future excellence. Perhaps I'm waiting for some 6/5 rebound that will never come, or chasing one more DMB high. However, no one should believe this is a 5/5 compared to DMB's earlier work, "except the [f'ing] nutjobs." I will concede that other reviewers may have anchored their scale in some other reality or some comparison that included bands like Jonas, the jumparounds and those guys from senior year who played at the kegger. The album doesn't suck, but it doesn't live up to the hype either. While some might label me a crash-head, if you're new to DMB (where have you been?) and you don't own any albums yet, start with one like Crash.
Todd Finnerty, Psy.D.
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on June 3, 2009
There have been reviews thus far talking about the Band's comeback. The old gang is back and they are better than ever - those sorts of reviews. I disagree while also acknowledging the origins of DMB music and token characteristics of the music still exist - sometimes covertly and at other time overtly. It is clear this album is an exploration into life, death, existentialism and Matthews' own admitted agnostic outlook on life. After the death of LeRoi Moore, it seems there is a new sobering style to the music.

The entire album lulls one from ballad to rocker with a complex arrangement and purposefully ordered tracks giving one a sense of being on a musical roller coaster. In that way, it is a work of art. Listening to the album in its entirety brings one back and forth, up and down from happy to sad emotion. It is an album that underscores the ebb and flow of life as this band tries so hard to answer the questions associated with life and death. Musically, is it the best Dave Matthews Band album? If I could be so bold as to propose that most DMB albums require more than a single day, week or month's worth of listening in order to truly appreciate them. No, it is not another Crash. If you want another Crash, you can order it on this site for less than 10 dollars. This is a new album that will grow on you as you listen to it and in years to come you will appreciate it just as you do the Band's earlier work. This is a band evolving and exploring new music, new questions and new beginnings in a certain sense. Having said that, if you want to hear the same old band, keep your old albums on your playlist and forgo this one. If you want to grow with a band not afraid to explore morose questions and difficult topics using music as a catalyst, this is an album you most certainly want in your collection.

Some tracks particularly stand out as a testament to the band's recent experiences. "Lying in the Hands of God" (perhaps the best song on the album) and "Why I am" lyrically explore the depths of religion and our existence with a philosophic taunting that rings cynical in the backdrop. The music to both pieces is abnormally complex - even for Matthews. But the complexity of the music mirrors the subject matter. This is not to ignore the sole hit thus far from the album - "Funny the Way it Is" - which explores life's paradoxical nature attempting to sense-make issues of inequality, injustice and existing socio-demographic polarities in the world. "Spaceman" examines the minds of the masses and again has religious inquiry or existentialism as an undertone via the lyrics. "Baby Blue" would be classic DMB were it not for the sobering and morose lyrics. However, it is one of the better musical arrangements on the album.

There is not a song on the album or the bonus tracks that betray the DMB catalog. However, given the recency of the release and my limited listening (I have listened to the album in entirety 4 times as of this writing), I am only giving it 4 stars, but confident it will grow to 5 and we'll be saying the same thing about this album in a decade that we say about Crash or Under the Table and Dreaming.
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on June 5, 2009
I used to be a fanatic for this band in high school. I played and sang alone and with friends the majority of their "hits" from the 1990s. Then EVERYDAY came out and basically ruined everything (though there are probably two worthwhile tracks on that album). I was convinced they'd completely lost it--that perhaps Steve Lilywhite was the real genius behind the band, as they started to suck right at the time that he stopped producing their music. When STAND UP came out I was moderately satisfied with a few of the tracks, and thought they might be making a comeback.

With this record, however, they have redeemed themselves and have exceeded all expectations. This is the best thing since BEFORE THESE CROWDED STREETS in 1998 (which is unarguably their magnum opus), and it is certainly the most musically and aesthetically sophisticated since that time. What we have now is the band returned to its roots, with Carter Beauford back at full capacity (a huge part of their early sound), and just a few bites of their 2000-decade-"hit"-obsession-sound blended in.

I just hope they can keep it up before Dave goes completely off the deep-end with the increasingly bleeding-heart lyrics.
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on June 3, 2009
The other reviewer mentioned Stand up was a darker album which is really not the case, Dream girl is no Halloween. Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King to me does seem to get back to some of the older DMB stylings. It seems to have some elements of the first 5 albums throughout the tracklisting with some new sounds for sure. I have only had th opportunity to listen to it a few times through and it will take months and some live shows to truly decide how good this album is. But it seems to have more potential than the past 3 records. Dave is downright dirty on Shake me like a Monkey, dark and ominous in Squirm, Funny the way it is lyrically classic dave. And time bomb has the makings of a setlist closer with the screaming and driving guitar at the end. However, the longest song is only 5 1/2 minutes once again. I don't suppose we will ever get the long exploratory jams that were once laden on every album. Everyday killed that and I suspect that era is gone. But this is the closest we've been in a long time. Also, Why I am is a great tribute to Leroi. We will miss you Grux.
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on March 30, 2016
I love the record but was dissapointed that the last few tunes of the CD album did not make the LP cut. In other words, 2 vynils weren't enough space to fit the 14 or so tunes in the original album. Eg: Cornbread and Write a Song are two of my favorite tunes in the album and are not included in the LP version. Major dissapointment with an otherwise exquisite album.
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