Gary Douglas opens up his heart to us and gives his most intimate and vulnerable performance yet in the new single “Million Miles Away,” the latest cut from his band’s stunning LP Deep in the Water. In this song, rigid textures are flanked with a fluid transparency in the lyrics that makes it easy for listeners to attach themselves both emotionally and physically to the content of the material; in the place of swaggering hooks, we instead find undersized swing steps in the chorus that take us backwards in time, to a chapter in country music history that favored boisterous melodies over sweeping lyrical rhyming. The style of attack might be steeped in tradition, but this master mix is planted in the future of modern pop; around every twist and turn in the rhythm, we’re treated to a spectacle of sonic wonderment that is never tethered to one group of instrumental fireworks over another. “Million Miles Away” is the backwoods symphony that this year really needed to get started on the right foot, and it lives up to the high standard that the Gary Douglas Band set long ago in their debut.
It’s hard to write a review about this song without highlighting all that unvarnished swing that spikes the chorus with just enough adrenaline to push us over the elegiac tone of the main verses, which is why I won’t even attempt to. Even with all of the time and energy that was obviously put into the lyric video for the track, our attention is constantly drawn back towards the versatile, charming beats that punctuate the undying emotion in Douglas’ voice when he lets everything go halfway through the song. The video puts some slick polish on top of what can only be described as a raw, relentlessly physical country ballad that doesn’t want to fit in with the poppier crowd in Nashville, and definitely makes it all the easier for us to get these anti-passive verses stuck in our head by feeding them to us in real-time. No matter what sort of emotional state you’re in, “Million Miles Away” seems to suit the mood; when we’re down, its dirge-like grooves remind us that we’re not alone, and when we’re feeling up again, its beats take on a fun flavor that could soundtrack a whole night of square dancing.
I don’t think that it’s a stretch to say that “Million Miles Away” is among the most humble and honest country songs that we’ve heard so far in 2019, and that’s coming from a critic who has heard more than her fair share of bittersweet bucolic singles in the last three months. The Gary Douglas Band doesn’t shortcut audiences in anything that they release, and while this track is pretty simple structurally, its melodies are the antithesis of what millennials would define as ordinary. Douglas is pushing the envelope as far as he can both inside and outside of the studio, and with “Million Miles Away,” he solidifies his status as one of the premier modern country songwriters in the States today.