In the great tradition of the American singer/songwriter, Gary Douglas and the Gary Douglas Band produce some of 2018’s most fascinating and classic jams in the new album Deep in the Water, a record which fans both new and old alike will have no trouble relating to. Gary Douglas has developed quite the reputation in the last few years for dispatching a brand of bucolic balladry that is reminiscent of traditional American folk music but dabbles extensively in countrified hard rock as well, and in my opinion this record could be his most defining statement to date. In these eleven songs, his band isn’t just brining the heat back to country music – they become its burning flames.
Deep in the Water could have probably been split into two separate extended plays and still have been just as poignant and successful. In this format though, we’ve got a virtual double portion of the Gary Douglas Band’s signature sound, and it actually plays out a lot better than most records of its ambitious size. There’s a pretty even balance of hard rocking revelry, country’s plaintive observations and folky political debate, but rather than synchronizing the songs to create tension, he starts us off with a bang in “River Road” and unwinds us brick by brick through to “Say What You Want to Say.”
I found the harmonies of Deep in the Water to be capable of evoking the same feelings one gets when watching an autumnal sunset. On the one hand, we’re overwhelmed by all of the colors, but on the other hand we can’t look away for fear of missing out on this exclusively unique moment of the day. We’re watching a radiant source of light disappear before our very eyes, and though it feels like the entire world is going dark, there’s a comfort in knowing that it’s going to be there, somehow, someway, in the morning.
The reflectiveness of Gary Douglas’ style of prose is only matched by the grandiosity of his vocal range, which he makes a point of using to its full potential (and even beyond it a couple of times, i.e. “Do You Wanna Go”). Songs like “Oh My Oh My” and the leadoff single “River Road” feel like rocking power anthems instead of 21st century folk rock commentaries because of the coupling of his powerful voice and the songwriting it sources for its dialogue. I was startled to learn that Douglas actually came to music late in life; he had seemed to me like someone who has been developing his writing and accompanying vocal for decades.
Gary Douglas might have got into the game a little later than most people do, but age clearly isn’t stopping him from being a dominant force of a songwriter and performer, and as much is evidenced in Deep in the Water. Sometimes artists will go years and years without producing or even picking up a pen before they finally have enough kindling again to make something happen. It was well worth the wait to get to experience what the Gary Douglas Band have put together for us in this latest effort, and hopefully it will be far from their last.