Is Dave Matthews – the middle-of-the-road, millions-in-the-bank music industry titan – relatable? As he himself once said, “Bartender, please.” It’s to his and his band’s strength then, that on Away From The World, DMB’s latest album, and its first in more than a decade with producer Steve Lilywhite (who oversaw their successful mid-’90s LPs), the 45-year-old casts himself as just another mid-life everyman on the brink, a far-more identifiable character than his amphitheater-packing, bro-friendly reputation might suggest.
Matthews, whose voice remains the same gruff, lithe and divisive instrument it’s long been, checks into the clinic early. “Sometimes I feel like I’m losing my mind,” he confesses on album-opener “Broken Things.” Soon enough he’s a stone presence in the arms of a lover (“The Riff”) and a sweet-talking chump forced to count his chickens (“Sweet”). Rhythmically, the band – with saxophonist Jeff Coffin replacing the late Leroi Moore – stays within its time-tested lane: oiled-up NOLA funk (“Belly Belly Nice”) bumping uglies with wind-swept jazz (“Snow Outside”). But Matthews, more than his mates, reps change we can believe in. “Don’t waste time trying to be something you’re not,” he proselytizes on epic closer “Drunken Solider.” They’re words he’s evidently taken to heart.