Fusing a sharp southern gothic wit with swinging, almost urban beats and a sizzling hot appreciation for the blues, the Gary Douglas Band has the attention of every critic in country, rock and folk music right now from one side of the United States to the other. It’s all because of their new album Deep in the Water, an eleven song masterpiece penned by Douglas and performed by his cleverly assembled group of super musicians. Gary Douglas has come a long way since his last record Keepin’ Faith, and as much as I did enjoy his first LP, this is the sound that I think everybody always knew he was capable of delivering unto us. There are enough guitars stacked into Deep in the Water to make Stevie Ray Vaughn or Jimi Hendrix green with envy, and the style of attack Douglas and company use when they go to work is threatening, unforgiving and non-negotiable. They came to unleash a beast with this record, and my how they succeeded.
Let’s just get right to the point. Artists have to prove their credibility with critics, period. I didn’t make the rules, and God knows that I don’t agree with them (most) of the time, but in all fairness to the established way of how a musician becomes relevant, or irrelevant for that matter, critics like myself aren’t the ones who determine an artist’s genuine credibility. It’s actually the people, or rather the crowds who support an artist who determines whether or not their sound and identity is the real article or not, and when it comes to the Gary Douglas Band, the audience has made a very obvious decision; they can’t get enough. Deep in the Water was one of the most hotly anticipated releases of the year, and it hasn’t just lived up to the buzz, it’s straight up exceeded it in terms of fan satisfaction. As a GDB girl myself, tracks like “Wild Child,” “Won’t Say No,” and of course “River Road” (the enormous hit that got most of us listening to start with) epitomize everything we’ve wanted to hear in country music lately but haven’t been gifted. Douglas and his crew saved 2018, and really, they saved us.
Anyone who ever questioned if Gary Douglas really deserved to the affections of both indie and country critics should do themselves a favor and listen to Deep in the Water’s title track. If you find yourself unmoved, unaffected and uncharmed within the first sixty seconds of the song, you might have a serious medical condition impairing your ability to appreciate good music. The opening volley of echoing strings and Douglas’ cold, distant crooning is entrancing, and almost anyone within earshot can be susceptible to its charismatic vortex of darkness contrasted against the light. It’s an intoxicating, oddly elegant segue between the visceral “Million Miles Away” and the swinging “Oh My Oh My,” and it could have been the lead single from this album just as easily as “River Road” was. The Gary Douglas Band don’t include any filler on their LPs; in reality, LPs are barely big enough to contain the unparalleled wonderment that this band is yielding in the studio right now.
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