Matthews Makes Acoustic Magic

Matthews Makes Acoustic Magic

published in The News-Sentinel

This is Dave Matthews at his mellow, candles-lit, beer-glass-in-hand, feet-on-the-table best.

“Live at Luther College” pairs Matthews with Tim Reynolds, his compatriot from a Charlottesville, Va., jazz joint where the Dave Matthews Band leader once waited tables.

The duo recorded this acoustic masterpiece Feb. 6, 1996, at tiny Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, on one of their tours sans the band. The intimate feel of this double CD is a reflection of that small venue. Matthews exchanges warm chitchat with the audience, introducing “Little Thing” with a story of a girl he met in New York.

Reynolds’ phenomenal guitar skills provide depth, melody and tenderness, maintaining the songs’ integrity better than the DMB’s loose ramblings on 1995’s “Live at Red Rocks.” Reynolds’ talent is particularly evident on his solo, “Stream”; his fingers trickle over the strings, notes dripping from the guitar in rapid-fire pitter-patter.

A glowing version of “One Sweet World” opens the album. The energy builds on the third track, “Tripping Billies,” which gets a kick from a bluegrass guitar bit. Reynolds inserts some blues on “What Would You Say,” as Matthews’ more melodic live vocals and occasional scat breathe new life into an overplayed radio single.

“Deed is Done” proves to be an abrupt mood change midway through the first disc, but Matthews soon slides back into a smooth, almost contemplative sound with “Lover Lay Down” and offers a haunting “Warehouse” on the second CD. The final track, “Two Step,” dissolves too soon into a smattering of applause, leaving the listener wishing for more.

Matthews and Reynolds, who fronts his own band called TR3, are re-creating the magic with an acoustic tour that will bring them to DePauw University in Greencastle on Feb. 21. Word is the pair will record another live album on the tour. Here’s a toast to another brew as smooth as this.