The Dave Matthews Band inspire extraordinary fanaticism among the most unlikely of people. Fellow zealots stick together, bosom buddies united by this strange passion for what is, to the rest of us, an averagely good jam band. Big Whiskey is being hailed by DMB fans as a return to form and fitting tribute to the band's late saxophonist LeRoi Moore, who died last year. There is plenty of accomplished playing here. The late Moore had many improvisational tricks up his sleeve, though whether you enjoy the polite wibblings of the soprano sax is another matter. Carter Beauford's drums are varied and interesting, if sometimes heavy-handed, and Stefan Lessard's bass is sufficiently funk driven to counter that characteristically anodyne acoustic strumming. Matthews is a versatile singer, as ever, though his enunciation has, over the years, become mannered, missing some of the freedom that characterised his earlier work: these days it sounds like a cross between Adam Levine and Ronan Keating striving in vain to be Eddie Vedder. As for the songs, well, they're perfectly nice. There's certainly nothing offensive about the rocked-out riffs and winsome ballads, and the lyrics will appeal to lovers of wise sayings and telling observations. It's the sort of music that turns up on episodes of Dawson's Creek or One Tree Hill. One of the bonus songs, Corn Bread, has some serious punch and groove but ultimately, unless you're already a fan, this is a pleasant, forgettable collection of musical dawdlings.
* Gemma Champ