Dave’s Pocket Full of Posies
‘Some Devil’ Is About Life and the Certainty of DeathBy Allison Lewis
Dave Matthew’s new solo album, Some Devil, sounds very much like Dave Matthews, but not very much like Dave Matthew’s Band. He’s got together a great group of musicians, and through the album, they experiment with different styles of music, but every song has that key, mellow Dave sound -- his simple-strumming guitar and sweet, somewhat sad voice. Behind a basic, catchy melody is a steady, driving rhythm. This is true traveling music -- roll down the windows of the car and play it loud, driving 80 miles per hour on the interstate.
The lyrics are, in some ways, very similar to those on his previous albums, but reveal an older, more mature Dave Matthews. He says these were the first songs he has written since the birth of his two daughters, so the lyrics are no longer just about drugs and sex. They are well-written, not at all cliche, but unique, and thought-provoking, about life, love, and death.
Working with him on the album were many talented artists that helped shape the music with their own input and ways of doing things: Tim Reynolds on guitar (who has played with Dave several times before), Trey Anastasio on electric guitar (who played with Phish), Brady Blade on drums and percussion, Tony Hall on bass, Stephen Harris on percussion, and Audrey Riley, who helped with the string and horn arrangements. All lyrics and music were written by Dave Matthews, with some help from Stephen Harris on “So Damn Lucky” and “Trouble,” and help from Trey Anastasio on “Grey Blue Eyes.”
If the album is listened to inactively, all the songs sounds similar, and flow together (again, with that characteristic, chill Dave sound). Like the songs on the Beatles’ Abbey Road, the record, in its entirety is like one song, a work of art. No song is too sudden or abrupt. But if the album is listened to closely and actively, each song sticks out, has something unique about it. “Some Devil” is barebones and beautiful, with Dave Matthews on electric guitar. “Save Me” includes a gospel choir. “Trouble” sounds much like a Southern hymnal. “Up and Away” has a percussive reggae beat.
His haunting song, “Gravedigger,” repeated twice on the album (the second version is acoustic, and is the last song on the album), is about mortality, the certainty of death. He quotes a traditional children’s song, “Ring Around the Rosie,” about death during the plague. The last verse is “We all fall down.” But even so, Dave asks, in his song, to be placed in a shallow grave, so he can feel the rain. He recognizes that he will one day die and is afraid of it. He wants to forever appreciate the joys of life, like the rain.
This theme of enjoying life, but knowing death will come, carries throughout the music and lyrics in the album. Dave experiments with gospel styles, and his songs, though mostly about happy moments in life, carry a sad undertone.
Seattle Music group, an amazing orchestra, gives the album some of its tragic tone. The strings play vibrantly, in a minor key. The horns punctuate the simple guitar melody with dramatic flavor. Part or all of the orchestra plays on a majority of the songs on the album.
The album’s lyrics and music, although disguised as easy-to-listen-to, are truly serious and deep. If really listened to closely, it’s downright depressing. Haunting.
The sounds and words are simple and realistic, as true and as sad as an old man in a nursing home, and then uplifting, like watching a kid fly a kite. Some Devil is all at once sad, happy, ugly, and beautiful, like life.