Sound — 7
"Away From The World" marks the Dave Matthews Band's 8th studio album and follows up their critically acclaimed "Big Whiskey And The GooGrux King". Although fans may argue with the decision to reteam with Steve Lillywhite, DMB headed back into the studio with the famed producer for the first time since, the now infamous, "Lillywhite Sessions" were scrapped back in 2000. For a group that is slowing creeping up on their twenty-year plateau, there is not going to be much in the way of musical departure on the record nor should there be. Fans of their previous work will happily find much of the same style that has made the Dave Matthews Band a touring force and one of the staples of American music today. However, "Away From The World" may surprise some listeners by what they don't hear. Although the Dave Matthews Band should always be judged by their live performances instead of their studio albums, "Away From The World" feels much more stripped down than "Big Whiskey". While all the current members and instruments are present and accounted for throughout the record, there is much less to be heard from Boyd Tinsley's violin or Jeff Coffin's sax. "Away From The World" left me feeling as if I had just listened to a good Dave Matthews' solo album, rather than one from the Dave Matthews "Band". No song highlights this more than the mandolin medley found on the track "Sweet" which is virtually just Dave. Again, this is all liable to change the second they start playing live and turn these three minute studio tracks into eight minute jam sessions, but right now these songs don't fell as full as most in the Dave Matthews Band catalog.
Lyrics — 9
Even at 45-years old, Dave Matthews' vocals are as strong as ever. Here, his unique voice frames the types of lyrics DMB fans have come to expect: deep, playful and creative. "Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water, Jack fell down and broke his crown cause he was messing with the preacher's daughter." The lyrics on "Away From The World" run the gambit, from the political commentary of "Mercy" to the trademark tongue-in-cheek lines from "Belly Belly". Dave is still a master at the craft of song writing, and he displays that talent again on "Away From The World".
Overall Impression — 8
"Broken Times", "Belly Belly" and "If Only" are the tracks which really stick out on this album. "Broken Times" is a sure-fire jam track which should be coming to a DMB caravan show near you. "If Only" stands out because it is a little different. This track is a subtle jazz number with plenty of Tim Reynolds' licks and fills fitting nicely with Carter Beauford's drums. After the first listen to the album I have to say I was a little disappointed. I thought the single track "Mercy" was not their best work, and certainly more than a little preachy. "Big Whiskey" started off with a bang right out of the gate with "Shake Me Like A Monkey" but "Away From The World" doesn't immediately jump out and grab you, the songs are much more subdued and do not contain the attacking horns of "Big Whiskey". It wasn't until the third and fourth listens that I really started to love these tracks and appreciate their intricacies. "Away From The World" is a grower, not a shower so let it grow on you.