Dave Matthews Band

Jam band nation

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By Gary Graff  

What separates the Dave Matthews Band from its many cousins in the jam band nation is the fact that since the start of its career, it's tended to make pretty decent albums. While genre godfathers the Grateful Dead and even the mighty Phish never quite seemed to get the hang of translating their live sound into a studio situation, Matthews is, at his core, a songwriter who knows how to pen a sturdy melody, and then build on the instrumental flash afterwards.

That virtue is fully intact on Stand Up, the DMB's first studio album in more than three years, and Matthews' return to the group format after going solo on 2003's Some Devil.

Produced by Mark Batson (Eminem, Seal, The Game), its fourteen tracks twist and turn and take the quintet into some previously uncharted waters, expanding its lineup to include keyboards, electric guitar and string sections, and basing most of the songs on sinewy grooves that makes this in many ways DMB's most jamcentric studio set to date.

"Dreamgirl" kicks things off with ambient, African-flavored chats and a rolling rhythm, while "Stand Up (For It)" is a fierce funk cut marked by stark, sharp syncopation. Socially conscious pieces such as "Everybody Wake Up (Our Finest Hour Arrives)" and "Hunger For the Great Light" boast a soaring, anthemic quality, whereas the down-home, gritty quality of "Louisiana Bayou," with its sharply drawn characters, evokes a backyard fish fry.

Gentler moments like "American Baby," "Out of My Hands" and "Steady as We Go" are winners, too, and while Stand Up showcases precision ensemble playing, Matthews' bandmates get their moments to shine -- Leroi Moore with the double-tracked sax solo that takes "American Baby" out, Boyd Tinsley with the frenetic violin attack on "Louisiana Bayou." It's a swirling sonic adventure, but one that leaves you humming the tunes while you're applauding the chops.

Gary Graff writes extensively about music. His work has appeared widely in such publications as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Detroit Free Press, and Billboard.