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Barnes and Reviews Everyday

For much of the past decade, Dave Matthews and his perpetual touring machine have wowed an ever-growing audience with boundless musical dexterity and an unparalleled vibe-building panache. It would be simple enough for Matthews and company to simply coast along from stadium to stadium on that reputation, but on this long-awaited collection, the DMB prove themselves willing to take some chances, rattle some cages, and branch out into directions that may surprise some devotees. From the first spin, Everyday strikes a different note from the band's previous studio outings: The songs are a bit more tightly wound and somewhat slicker, traits attributable in part to producer Glen Ballard (known for his work with Alanis Morissette and Aerosmith). Perhaps because of Ballard's guidance, Matthews sounds hellbent on exploring new territory, pumping up the volume -- and the electricity -- and reining in the jamming (all the album's songs clock in under five minutes). Surprisingly straightforward, stripped-down tunes like "So Right" and the good-timey boogie "I Did It" are missing any signature Matthews quirk other than his voice. But don’t panic! There are still forays down roads less traveled, like the heady Middle Eastern tones of "What You Are" and the sunny island bounce of the reggae-tinged "Angel," although such side trips are invariably cut short as the band return to a rock-paved highway. Special guest Carlos Santana helps make that trip a bit easier by turning in some scintillating (even by his high standards) guitar work on "Mother Father" -- a nice bookend to Dave's work on Santana's blockbuster Supernatural. While the lack of extended solos -- saxophonist LeRoi Moore is noticeably quieter than on earlier albums -- may irk some diehards, the tight ensemble playing that guides tunes like the lustily rolling, organ-drenched "When the World Ends" will turn shaking heads into bobbing ones in a hurry. Matthews's will to evolve is certainly impressive, and as long as he keeps zigging when folks expect him to zag, his spot in rock's pantheon is secure.

-David Sprague