Pastoral poet Gary Douglas pulls out all the stops in the new single from his eponymous band, “Million Miles Away,” and by my estimation, delivers some of his very best work yet. Anyone who knows Douglas is more than aware of his dynamic skillset as a singer and songwriter, but few would expect the depth of emotion that he imparts in his latest work, which is captured beautifully in an accompanying lyric video. 2018 saw the release of his last album Deep in the Water, and with this single to kick off 2019, it would appear that his already impressive professional momentum is really starting to pick up.
Country music on the mainstream side of the dial hasn’t been willing to experiment with its sound nearly half as much as Douglas does in Deep in the Water, and you can instantly hear the difference in quality when examining the instrumental arrangement that frames “Million Miles Away.” There are shades of rock, pop and even blues in these chords; at one point, the rhythm adopts an almost urban swing that is both playful and yet somber, with Douglas’ words acting as the reconciliation between the two conflicting emotions. If this isn’t profound songwriting, I don’t know what is.
The grooves that we come in contact with in this single are as entrancing as the imagery that comprises the lyric video, and together they make for one of the more surreal experiences that I’ve engaged in as a country music critic. The video isn’t shot in a particularly psychedelic or cerebral manner, but its black and white visuals juxtaposed with textured color shots are inspired and even a tad postmodern without a doubt. The Gary Douglas Band are credited as a roots group, but don’t let the broad umbrella label fool you; there’s a near-endless supply of artistic layers in the work that they release.
“Million Miles Away” is littered with addictive beats that more rock-leaning country fans will really appreciate, but the underlying physicality in both the strings and the piano really emphasize the Americana-inspired polish that this single wears with pride. Douglas is true to his ethos here, and while he’s open to incorporating nuances from a litany of external influences in this melody, he firmly asserts himself as a singer/songwriter first and foremost in this single. Compositionally, this is an ode to the troubadours of yore; stylistically, it’s a glimpse into the future of country’s more fluid, progressive subgenres like we’ve never heard them before.
Deep in the Water is a truly great album from start to finish, but after a lot of consideration, I don’t think there’s much debate as to whether or not “Million Miles Away” is its most ear-catching crown jewel. Douglas and his band rip apart the contemporary country formula just to piece it back together with a flamboyant musicality here that is desperately needed in 2019, and frankly, it’s the most endearing element to behold in both the song and the video. He’s proven himself ready for the primetime, and if “Million Miles Away” gets the same exposure that its parent album has, it could easily bring the Gary Douglas Band the fame and fortune that they’ve worked so very hard to achieve.