I’ve been a big fan of Matchbox Twenty for years, and I responded to the news that front-man Rob Thomas was making a solo album with both anticipation and trepidation. I was thrilled with the musical direction that Thomas had taken Matchbox Twenty with their most recent album, More Than You Think You Are, but concerned that Thomas might take his solo career in a different direction.

The first single from Something to Be, latin-pop track Lonely No More, was both entirely different than Thomas’s work with Matchbox Twenty and independently excellent (and the music video is worth a look, check it out in the iTunes Music Videos section). The rest of the album largely follows suit—it’s not what you expect, but you like it anyway.

Thomas enlists the help of a diverse cast of backing musicians—Eminem’s bass guitarist, Beyoncé’s drummer, guitarists who have worked with Tom Petty and Sheryl Crow, a gospel choir, and a guest appearance by John Mayer. The result is an album that manages to sound, in places, like a pop/R&B but maintains a rock-and-roll core. To say the least, no other album I’ve ever heard sounds like Something to Be.

If you appreciate the lyrical stylings of Rob Thomas as you’ve experienced them in Matchbox Twenty, but are interested in hearing his words in a new musical context, give this album a try. It’s a great start for Rob Thomas as a soloist, and despite a few weak points Something to Be is worth having in your collection.

4 out of 5 stars.

Scott Bradford has been building web sites and using them to say what he thinks since 1995, which tended to get him in trouble with power-tripping assistant principals at the time. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from George Mason University, but has spent most of his career (so far) working on public- and private-sector web sites. He is not a member of any political party, and brands himself an ‘independent constitutional conservative.’ In addition to holding down a day job and blogging about challenging subjects like politics, religion, and technology, Scott is also a devout Catholic, gun-owner, bike rider, and music lover with a wife, two cats, and a dog.