18 February 2012

Doug Prescott: "The Journey & The Deep Blue Sea"

My many thanks to Independent Music Promotions for keeping me in the loop.

For some reason or other, I have typically swayed away from making political commentary on the blog, but I think it is obvious from the musicians that I tend to cover where I stand politically. It is perhaps why I usually sway away from certain genres of music and a certain set of musicians – their politics revolt me for the most part. Though I listen to some country music, it is for those said reasons that I usually sway away from it as a genre, so when I received Doug Prescott’s “The Journey & The Deep Blue Sea” (1 November 2011), at first I scoffed at the fact that I was about to listen to country music. Though it is hard to categorize this album as purely being “country,” as many other elements (from lounge to funk) permeates through the music, at the heart of the songs there is something undeniably American. However, I think that the folks in the metaphoric Nashville (who think they have the market on “Americana”) would thumb their collective nose at this album, which, in my book, is a good reason to listen to it.

First let me admit some of my ignorance. I know little about Doug Prescott; I did cheat a little and read a snippet of his biography (crooning by night, by day the CEO of Prescott Environmental Associates, consulting clients to operate cleaner and greener) and know even less about his discography. And even though I do listen to some country music, it is by far not enough to actually tell you what is trendy or not. I say these things to point out that this is truly a blind review. But what speaks volumes to me is the fact that I am listening to Prescott even though I am post-punk overdosed, shoegazed-obsessed.

The album kicks off with the ironically titled “Happy Enough Song,” which really displays some great blues arrangements. “I just do my thing and do my best to sing a happy enough song,” sings Prescott, and it is not just the music that sucks you in, but also the universal reality: we all go through life, the mundane activities of everyday, as we wait for something better, always keeping our chins up – that happy enough song. Starting an album with such a song only makes you wonder just what is coming next. “Hideaway,” more traditionally country than the opener, is about Prescott’s need for change from the mundanities of everyday life: “Break away, I just might need to break away…. Hideaway, I wish I could hideaway. There are decisions to be made, but I don’t want to make them.” (Just about how I feel every Monday.) The third track, “Patience,” brings in the funk, succinct lyrics (“Better just get in line, you just might have to wait; might not be your time, you might get lucky sooner or later…”), and a detached, matter-of-fact vocal style. And already in the first three tracks, Prescott shows a wide diversity of musical and vocal styles, really elaborating on the concept of just what is “country.”

The album closes with “Little Elvis & Fat Cat Eddie” – a strong blues ending to mirror the opening. And by the time you have reached this closing point, you are realize that one of the reasons you have been drawn to the vocals is because they are fashioned after an older, 60’s, style of singing which is warmer and more alluring that contemporary singing, which makes it perfect for the continual narration throughout the album. My favorite track is “Silence Speaks Volumes.” With a near Caribbean-feel and a line I think we all must have said at one time (“Don’t patronize me when we’re trying to talk it over”), it is the outlier of the album. Musically it is disarming in the context of the rest of album, and lyrically it is the line that comes before the aforementioned that is the most poignant: “Sometimes what you don’t say hurts more.” I would be remiss, though, if I did not mention “Let’s Get Wide Open.” In terms of the arrangements, no song on the album compares – this is great arrangements! There is nothing superfluous: from the vocal crooning to the use of the horns, every moment of music and vocals helps propel the mood of this 70s-esque song.

Doug Prescott’s “The Journey & The Deep Blue Sea” is essentially a country album, but it is those musical references to other genres that really brings it to life. His non-purist approach to songwriting is refreshing, as anything that is done by the book easily bores me. Furthermore, Dough Prescott represents one of the independent country musicians, a set of musicians that rarely get any mention in the world of the “independent” music. And as a true independent artist, he is able to compose music that is outside of the norm or the expected. This, I state emphatically as a post-punk overdosed, shoegaze-obsessed fan, is the kind of music that might have me going out to buy a Stetson. Check it out.

1. Happy Enough Song
2. Hideaway
3. Patience
4. Silence Speaks Volumes
5. Oh Maggie
6. Let’s Get Wide Open
7. It’s About Oil
8. Beach Wedding
9. Right Time, Right Place
10. Little Elvis & Fat Cat Eddie

Keep up with Doug Prescott at his homepage and Facebook.

Here is Doug Prescott’s video for “It’s About Oil” from the davstill YouTube Channel.

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