Gary Douglas and his band haven’t yet amassed a long discography to their credit, but their most recent album Keepin’ Faith did the work of a trio of albums in establishing The Gary Douglas Band as a major new force on the “roots rock” scene. He’s released two singles so far from Deep in the Water, the band’s full length follow up to Keepin’ Faith, and the newest single “Nothing Ever Goes as Planned” solidifies the promise of his forthcoming release. It avoids any of the boisterous Stones like swagger Douglas and his band mates conjure on other tracks in favor of a much more thoughtful and relevant reflection on modern American society.
It starts off as an acoustic tune with a clipped, lightly melodic style. The percussion has a brushed effect during the song’s introduction, but the drumming becomes much more defined around the one minute mark and has a warm snap ideally suited to the song’s sound. Douglas and his band take this track at a mid-tempo pace, a sort of half or stuttered shuffle, and the pace allows Douglas, as a songwriter, the opportunity to develop the vocal melody and phrasing in a measured way. There’s some backing vocals thrown into the mix for the song’s chorus and they play off well against Douglas’ voice.
His singing performance has understated artistry. Much of the singing is infused with just enough drama to underline the lyrics and capture our attention, but Douglas definitely hits high points during the chorus that clarify his passion for listener. “Nothing Ever Goes as Planned” comes off, in some ways, like a prayer and that feeling is amplified by the gospel-like style employed during the song’s chorus.
Douglas pens a sophisticated lyric for this song, but the sophistication lies more in how he’s capable of conveying his point with equal parts direct language and pointed imagery rather weighty lines and literary pretentiousness. Douglas has a message he wants to get across and it isn’t a particularly cheerful one, but there’s a spirit of community spicing up this song that gives listeners a sense that, no matter how bad things are or get, we’re all in this together. It’s a wise antidote to his unsparing depiction of the current world where we live.
“Nothing Ever Goes as Planned” is the second single from Deep in the Water and follows up the first, “River Road”, with every bit of the same passion and personal stakes fueling that cut. The Gary Douglas Band has already established a glowing reputation in the Americana/rock world and tracks like this will only help bring their music to a wider audience than ever before. The hard-nosed sensibilities of a native New Yorker come through in Douglas’ songwriting, but there’s immense intelligence and taste driving this song as well. If the rest of Deep in the Water is this good, Douglas’ fans and devotees of this style are in for quite a treat and a sure album of the year contender for me.