Dave Matthews Band
"When the world ends, collect your things. You're coming with me," Dave Matthews sings at the outset of the song "When The World Ends." Those lyrics illustrate the general theme of unity that intertwines itself throughout Everyday. This new album celebrates the triumphant return of the Dave Matthews Band, and its return is definitely welcome in this world of lackluster pop rock.
Without the presence of Matthews' vocals, one might not recognize Everyday as being a DMB album. The two biggest reasons for that are the appearance of electric guitars on a DMB album for the first time and the newfound wealth of keyboard-induced pop hooks supplied by producer Glen Ballard. This is Ballard's first time working with Matthews, but his knack for creating melodies that linger in the heads of listeners for days is something worth cherishing.
Lyrically, this is one of the finest DMB albums to date. From dealing with parental expectations on "Dreams Of Our Fathers" to enjoying a perfect romance on "So Right," Matthews covers the spectrum of human issues. Word has it that Everyday began as a dark album, and that sense of relationship doom lingers around on the violin-charged song "Fool To Think."
The alienation factor is huge on this DMB album, because gone are the acoustic ballads and the extensive jam sessions featuring violinist Boyd Tinsley and saxophone player Leroi Moore. However, if you ever dreamed of hearing a more radio-friendly, electric version of DMB, then Everyday is the quintessential album for you. -Chas J. Hartman
Mark Olson & The Original Harmony Ridge Creekdippers
My Own Jo Ellen
Since their graceful debut in 1997, the Original Harmony Ridge Creek Dippers have managed to remain simple, spirited, and timeless. Their fourth release and major indie label debut, My Own Jo Ellen, is their most satisfying record to date and a testament to their familiar and mysterious homespun charm. Former Jayhawk Mark Olson's reedy voice breathes life into these evocative tracks, echoing the spirit and sound of Gram Parsons. Olson's wife, singer/songwriter Victoria Williams, lends a hand with various instruments and backup vocals while a variety of guest players contribute to a sound that's as rich and self-assured as anything you'll hear all year.
Retaining the spontaneity of their previous efforts, this album manages to sound a bit more polished and a tad more accessible. "Letter from Africa" has the subtle allure of a Van Morrison style R & B number while "Someone to Talk With" and "Rainbow of Your Heart" seduce with shimmering rock guitar. The gentle strumalong of "Walking Through Nevada" is hard to ignore, as are the soulful harmonies that fill "Linda Lee."
The Creekdippers keep it beautiful by keeping it simple, with a sound that's personal and hopeful. Theirs is a casual energy, rife with beautiful melodies. The result is a magical record that's about as sweet and spiritual as they come. [See cover story this issue.] -Chris Webb
As an old crony of Townes Van Zandt, Taylor is expected to have the tag "storyteller" prominently on his pedigree. This man with a whiskey-at-the-bottom-of-a-deep-well voice works hard not to disappoint - although he's dogged by a method actor's self-consciousness.
Leadoff track "Happy Endings" delivers all the goods in a seven-minute portrait of a family that goes through changes of fortune while an ambivalent inertia constantly tugs them down. Soon it becomes apparent that Taylor loves to load the listener up with the sketchy clues that accumulate from repeated lines. He could provide bravura detail but doesn't want to paint by numbers. The music gets a similar treatment: Taylor's guitar hits clear tones that bounce around like nothing so much as the pealing of church bells. Considering how effectively he makes use of Mike Sumler's hushed organ, echoes of religious import waft all over the portraits of sorry souls. An 11-minute soul-drenched take on the traditional murder-ballad "Delia" fits Taylor well.
Over the course of the album, Eric Taylor plays his best hand over and over, and it's a shame that Scuffletown doesn't merit greater appreciation. "All The Way to Heaven" follows the quick course of a pulpy film noir, but it's put into a rhythmic pattern of phrases that assign it the inevitability of a waking dream. If he can do something this magical in less than four minutes, then why do so many tracks go on for the sake of more obvious effects like rumbling drums as a portent of natural ruthlessness having its influence on human nature? Maybe because so few talented individuals ever bother to try for such a direct painterly style. He may end up somewhat formulaic, but it's one hell of a standout formula. -T.E. Lyons