A gentle piano emits an optimistic melody as brittle acoustic guitar strings attempt to replicate it in the opening bars of “Million Miles Away,” the latest single from the Gary Douglas Band’s new album Deep in the Water. When Douglas starts to croon in his smoky voice, his vocal wraps around the keys tightly, but leaves just enough room for a fleeting percussive stomp to penetrate the harmony. The lyrics are tangible and presented to us free of the watered down metaphors and pedestrian platitudes of mainstream country, but they’re only telling us half of the story here. The other half is being told by this wickedly sharp instrumentation, which is bolstered by a muscular master mix and elegantly produced alongside the wispy vocal of the lead singer himself. Like the other songs that join it on Deep in the Water, “Million Miles Away” is both an exercise in bucolic melodicism and a formidable stab at experimental country/rock, and it’s a fun listen for anyone with an ear for the new Nashville sound.
The lyric video for “Million Miles Away” is majestically directed, but it doesn’t overstate the theme of the song with a lot of predictable imagery that would muddy the narrative behind the words. From diners and subways to bridges and deserts, the video plays out like a map of America, only instead of pointing out different cities and landmarks along our journey by their given names, Douglas’ verses act as an emotional encapsulation of what we’re looking at. The music is always the main focus, and while the video is certainly a colorful piece to look at, its cosmetic artistry pales in comparison to what the song contains from a compositional point of view. Douglas has grown a lot since 2015’s Keepin’ Faith, and in this single he really shows off just how much he’s developed his songcraft both as a lyricist and as an arranger. These instruments are communicating so much to us here beyond stimulating hooks and memorable verses; this is as engrossing a country single as I’ve ever heard, and if anything, it pushes the limits of the genre into some seriously intriguing new territory.
“Million Miles Away” is an awesome single, and more than reason enough to scope out the Gary Douglas Band’s new album Deep in the Water, which in the short time since its debut has already racked up some heavy critical accolades from one side of the country spectrum to the next. In a year that has already produced some stellar work from upstart songwriters looking to break into the mainstream before 2020, “Million Miles Away” stands out as the first authentic country song to really explore an often forgotten aspect of the genre’s roots in Americana and folk, and in an era where melding the old with the new is trendier than ever before, this track is quite a hot commodity to say the least. I look forward to catching Gary Douglas on his next domestic tour, and if you enjoy legit country grooves as much as I do, you won’t want to miss it, either.