The Dave Matthews Band may not have released the Lillywhite Sessions -- the semi-legendary soul-searching album recorded in 2000 but abandoned in favor of the heavy-handed, laborious Glen Ballard-produced Everyday -- but they couldn't escape its shadow. Every review, every article surrounding the release of Everyday mentioned it, often claiming it was better than the released project -- an opinion the band seemed to support by playing many numbers from the widely bootlegged lost album on tour in 2001. Since they couldn't run away from the Lillywhite Sessions, they decided to embrace it, albeit on their own terms. They didn't just release the album, as is. They picked nine of the best songs from the sessions, reworked some of them a bit, tinkered with the lyrics, re-recorded the tunes with a different producer (Stephen Harris, a veteran of post-Brit-pop bands like the Bluetones, plus engineer on U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind), added two new songs, and came up with Busted Stuff, a polished commercial spin on music widely considered the darkest, most revealing work Matthews has yet created. Remarkably, these songs not only retain their emotional core even after they've been cleaned up, but they perhaps even gain more resonance in this setting. After all, Steve Lillywhite is hardly Steve Albini, and while the initial versions of these songs were raw, it was as much because they were not quite finished as they were Matthews exposing his soul. Here, these songs have been completed, not just in the writing but in the arrangement and production, so they sound just as personal to Dave Matthews, but also sound like fully realized DMB songs. And while they do jam a bit -- in, surprise!, a song called "Kit Kat Jam" -- that's not the emphasis of their performances; in these slow, moody pieces, they provide supple support to Matthews' elliptical, winding melodies and searching lyrics. The band sounds unified, and so does the album; one of the new songs, "Where Are You Going," sounded dull on its first appearance on the Mr. Deeds soundtrack, but here, it's part of the fabric of the album, equally effective in sustaining the reflective, not depressive, tone of the album. Here, there's none of the loose-limbed, frat-boy funk from DMB's previous albums, none of the smirking jokiness that has plagued their up-tempo jams, while the heartache and yearning that once seemed affected in their ballads is palpably real. It's not so much a departure as it is an unexpected twist in their career. By leaving behind the key elements that defined their music, DMB has revealed that they can hit a deeper emotional chord and, in the process, deliver what's unquestionably the best album of their career.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine