Solo albums from guys who lead their own bands are always tricky. What's the difference between a Tom Petty record and one by Petty and the Heartbreakers? Not much besides a few new names in the liner notes. Sound, vision, and style are almost identical. On his first solo CD, Dave Matthews ditches the band and makes an album that sounds pretty much like a Dave Matthews Band record.
Apparently rejected by Matthews for not being complementary with his namesake group, Some Devil's 14 songs nonetheless wouldn't be out of place on Everywhere or Busted Stuff, the last two ensemble discs. (One cut, "Gravedigger," even pops up regularly at the band's concerts.) But aside from the absence of key instrumental breaks -- by, most notably, violinist Boyd Tinsley -- Some Devil is Matthews running on the same old ground.
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Phish's Trey Anastasio, and frequent collaborator Tim Reynolds lend helping hands, but the few "new" touches -- a string arrangement here, a gospel choir there -- are hackneyed. When Matthews trusts the songs -- as he does with "Dodo" and "So Damn Lucky" -- Some Devil is no worse (or better) than anything else he's recorded over the past decade. But it rings familiar, no matter what name's above the title.
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