If you thought you knew who the Gary Douglas Band was, you’d better think again. In their new album Deep in the Water, Douglas takes us on a personal search for truth, redemption and personified clarity one torturous burst of yearning at a time, and if you’ve got the emotional depth to get on his level then you’re in for the ultimate listening experience of the summer. The Gary Douglas Band isn’t your average roots rock group, and they aren’t led by your typical singer/songwriter. They’re breaking ground on an entirely new patch of rich soil that, for whatever reason, their country music peers have neglected to explore. Deep in the Water is a literal watershed for GDB, and it was my pleasure to have the chance to review it before its feverishly awaited release.
There’s plenty of swing in the guts of Deep in the Water’s best songs, but there’s also a tempered calmness that stays evenly distributed every now and again. All eleven songs stay in their place very tightly, but they don’t keep their hands folded; there’s a lot of wild outbursts in the first half of the record (“River Road” and “Oh My Oh My” in particular), and one could even get the idea that this was going to be an all-out country rock affair if they were to stop listening after track four. But as they’ve shown us in the past, the Gary Douglas Band are anything but predictable in their long-game, and listening to this album on shuffle will produce results that border on the avant-garde (at least for most country music puritans).
Gary Douglas has a very special way of celebrating American honky tonk, and it’s completely different from anyone else I can think of. He doesn’t care about surface level stuff and thematic elements, plot devices, all of the cheesy elements of storytelling that folk music abandons and the greater establishment in Nashville tends to embrace. It’s all about personality for this guy, and both he and the material that he composes is chock full of it. There’s no set way of doing things for Gary Douglas, but I sure get the idea that he does have a set way of not doing things, and compromising is chief among them.
Deep in the Water is my nominee for feel good record of the year, and there isn’t another record (country music or otherwise) that even comes close to giving it a run for its money. I believe that within ten years’ time, the Gary Douglas Band isn’t going to be considered a rock or country band, but rather just a group that became a staple of American pop music, not unlike Three Dog Night or Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Those groups were literally the culmination of a generation and its culture, and they were able to absorb all of the varied nuances of both without ever concerning themselves with what box they belonged in – because no box could ever hold them. The same goes for the Gary Douglas Band, and that’s my biggest takeaway from Deep in the Water.