Moore’s death shocked his bandmates into a sudden sense of urgency: The group had spent nearly 18 months tinkering with ideas for a follow-up to its 2005 album, “Stand Up,” when Moore died. The surviving musicians quickly finished “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King,” and it’s probably no coincidence that it’s their strongest album in years.
Matthews finds a balance in his lyrics between off-handed whimsy and deeper reflections, and the others back him with a tighter version of the instrumental interplay that has made them one of the most popular American bands of the past 15 years.
As expected on an album dedicated to Moore, there’s plenty here about mortality and the fragility of life. Matthews sings of finding peace and acceptance on “Lying in the Hands of God,” and he muses over things that are peculiar-funny on the single “Funny the Way It Is.”
He goofs around elsewhere, issuing a steady stream of oddball come-ons on “Shake Me Like a Monkey” and growling out lyrics through a humid swamp vibe on “Alligator Pie (Cockadile).”
That song, with banjo, guitar and busy drumming, is a full-bore display of the group’s jammy instrumental prowess.
Each is a reminder, along with most of the rest of “Big Whiskey,” of how impressive the Dave Matthews Band is when everyone finds a common focus.