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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

DMB Press On With(out) GrooGrux King

Dave Matthews Band have released "Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King" on June 2, 2009, but the namesake of the album, saxophonist Leroi Moore, passed away as a result of injuries suffered after an ATV accident last June.

On August 19th, 2008, nearly two months after the actual accident, Leroi was not feeling well and was taken to the hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival. The rest of the band honored Leroi at a Staples Center show that night, with Dave making an announcement after the first song "Bartender" finished, "Our good friend LeRoi Moore passed on and gave his ghost up today and we will miss him forever." Near the end of the show, he told a story about the first time he heard Leroi play. He said that Leroi had a bit to drink and he leaned against the cash register because "standing had become somewhat of a chore," and "he played the most beautiful version of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" I ever heard in my whole life." Dave went on to say "that's the day that I fell in love with him, and I'm still in love with him, through the thick and the thin." The band stuck mainly to favorite tracks of Leroi's at their first show with out him. Leroi's final show with the band was on June 28th, just two days before the accident, and occurred in their home state of Virginia. The band released the performance as Live Trax Volume 14 and all proceeds from the sale of his album are being donated to Moore's favorite charities and organizations.

According to drummer Carter Beauford, the name GrooGrux was a made-up word used to describe the wild sound created by Leroi and himself, along with collaborators Tim Reynolds and Tim Wicks. The "Big Whiskey" comes from a New Orleans drunk who would play harmonica to earn money to buy a "big whiskey". One of Leroi's favorite cities was New Orleans, as revealed on the DVD documentary "Scenes From Big Whiskey" which is included in the deluxe package of the album, so the band made a point of spending time there to add that sound to the album. The documentary focuses on the recording of the album but also follows each member and their reaction to Leroi's passing, as well as how the band regrouped after tension formed in off-time.

While "Before These Crowded Streets" will probably always be my favorite album of theirs, "GrooGrux" is something that every DMB fan should own and is quite unique from previous releases. It's clearly evident when watching the documentary that all members are quite proud of this album, with Dave saying "if this is the last album I make, it's the only one I want people to hear". For the band and its fans, this album will hold sentimental value for including Leroi's final recordings but this album has far more to love than just nostalgia. The opening of the album is an opening called "Grux" which features Leroi tooling on the sax over Carter's rhythmic drums, leading directly into the lively and raucous "Shake Me Like A Monkey", a song that will have the fans on their feet and singing in their car. The vibe continues with the upbeat "Funny The Way It Is" and slows down for a track before picking up the pace again on "Why I Am", during which Dave sings "still here dancing with GrooGrux King". Other favorites include "Spaceman" with a heavy bass groove from Stefan Lessard and bluesy guitar fills from Tim Reynolds, the New Orleans bayou-laden sound on "Alligator Pie", and the stripped down sound of "My Baby Blue" featuring Dave's vocals over a single guitar which plays on the DVD as the band talks about Leroi.

It's hard to believe while listening to this album that any tension could have existed as the sound reveals collaborative celebration of musicianship with each member pouring themselves into each track, and Leroi's presence is scattered brilliantly throughout.

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