Coming from North Carolina is Americana artist Doug Prescott with his new release entitled The Journey & The Deep Blue Sea. Without spoiling too much of the musical content of this release in the introduction to this review, I must say the light backstory behind Doug Prescott (the stage name of musician Doug Guild) is intriguing and will certainly raise a few eyebrows. In short, Doug is a modern day Bruce Wayne/Batman figure who, by day, works as the president and CEO of Prescott Environmental Associates, a Chapel Hill consulting firm that helps clients keep their operations clean and green. But by night, he produces music that often is opposed to big business and corporate excess that is so often painted across the news from day to day.
With this simple concept in mind, the music of Doug Prescott (and his standout band of musicians) comes to life in a fusion of rock and roll, blues, soul, and folk elements. These are by definition genres that represent American music, and fortunately Doug Prescott is able to perform them all in a fashion that is truly excellent and representative of the eclectic nature of living in the United States. Major musical influences for Doug Prescott's album include Little Feat, The Neville Brothers, Asleep at the Wheel and Jimmy Buffet. Read on for a more in depth analysis of Doug Prescott's release The Journey & The Deep Blue Sea.
It would be difficult to suggest that this music is "pure" Americana, though ultimately that genre term has little meaning with regards to how the music "actually" sounds. The sound on The Journey & The Deep Blue Sea is very diverse, in terms of the variety of genres that come into play which have been previously mentioned; but also in terms of the variety of instruments utilized from those you would undoubtedly expect like guitars, bass guitars, drums, and piano; to some that may not immediately be thought of such as horns, organs, and strange instruments that I could not even identify by name! Holistically, the instruments blend together in such a way that is easily enjoyable. While the focus of the music is certainly the vocals, there are times where the instruments are able to shine with great melody lines, enjoyable rhythms (especially on the guitars which definitely have a classic rock and soul vibe), and even some great solos thrown here and there. Especially notable on that latter point is a little organ solo followed by a great relaxing guitar solo found on the track "Beach Wedding." I also loved the track titled "Hideaway" which is much more folk-heavy, and reminds me much of one of my favorite folk bands Iron & Wine.
Moving away from just the basic instrument sounds found on this album, it is important to note that the production quality on Doug Prescott's album is superb. It is always a pleasure to review artists who have produced quality sounding tracks, because I can instantly see the value in owning and flaunting it to my friends and relatives. Of course, production is not everything, but there is very little I could complain about. The Journey & The Deep Blue Sea is professionally recorded and mixed, and could easily be sold in stores. In an attempt to be less then completely biased towards the greatness of this album (because to be frank I think it is fantastic from a musicians viewpoint), I could point out how I wish the bass drum would be a little bit louder in the mix on most of the tracks on this album; but it is really such a small complaint and only one that would be picked up by someone who mixes music regularly (like myself).
COMPOSITION AND INSTRUMENTATION:
As a musician, one of my favorite aspects about music is when it takes risks and can actually be enjoyable for more reasons then just the vocals. Pop music typically has a tendency to only be good when their are vocals, but the underlying instrumentation and composition is really lacking. That is not the case on this album. In fact, most of the songs are not even entirely straighforward with a basic pop structure; which just adds to the enjoyability for me. It was hard to know what exactly was coming next on the album, which makes it all the better!
Looking again at the instrumentation on this album, there is a diverse mix; though the instruments are substantially a staple within "American" music. This includes acoustic guitars, lightly overdriven rhythm guitars, organs, horn sections, and so forth. The usage of so many instruments provides a lot of variety to this album no doubt. The instruments, more importantly, do a great job at moving the album forward from one section to another with each track; and from one song to another when considering the entire album as a whole. Often instruments are layered, as is found notably on the third track "Patience" where we hear the constant ebb-and-flow of tonal colors coming from rhythm guitars, light lead guitars, the organ (playing both rhythm and melodic sections), as well as the expected bass and drums. These simple compositional and instrumentational points lend themselves to a great album that is actually interesting to listen to (and I am sure, to watch live!). It also provides content for everyone: musicians interested in great guitar playing and solos (like myself) or people who just want to listen to some great vocals and lyrics. For Americana music, I have little to complain about. The only small flaw I could pick out was on occasion some riffs felt kind of contrived, in that I felt like I had heard them before. This is especially noticeable in the rhythm guitar. But, again, this does not happen very frequently; nor do I feel it takes away from the music in any significant way.
The entire time I listened to this album, I had the thought of seeing this band perform live in a New Orleans bar. Maybe one day? I guess we will have to wait and see.
VOCALS AND LYRICS:
The vocals found on this album, performed by Doug himself, are excellent. In fact, they came as almost completely unexpected to my ear after initially seeing his photograph on the album artwork for this release. Based solely on appearance, he reminds me of my uncle who tries to sing; but usually falls very flat with that regard (and that is being generous to my uncle!). With that light bit of bad comedy out of the way, I really was impressed by the vocal performance throughout this album. It is very varied, and not to mention extremely accessible. In fact, his vocal performance reminds me of the famous vocalist Mark Knopfler from The Dire Straits on a majority of the tracks. Not to mention, on the track "Right Time, Right Place" his vocal styling begins to sound like a more relaxed Frank Sinatra; which was very surprising and somewhat awe inspiring. With this in mind, I would be surprised if some of these songs do not turn into a hit in the United States, especially in major cities that are heavy on patriotism and pure "Americanism" like New Orlean, New York City, San Fransicso, or frankly any city in the big old state of Texas. Of course, I should also mention the incorporation of some guest vocalists; who do well to support Doug's vocal stylings from track to track.
To touch on the vocals, they are surprisingly well done for this style of music. To be honest, I am not a major fan of "patriotism" or even American music in general; but I do occasionally enjoy well known artists such as Frank Sinatra. Thematically, the tracks on The Journey & The Deep Blue Sea are very political in nature, touching on corporate greed among other related things. This is perhaps most notable on the track titled "It's About Oil." Fortunately, the track is not as corny as the title.
"It's about oil, It's about us, It's about messin around with the world and losing their trust. It's about greed, You know what I mean, It's about getting whatever we want by any means"
With lyrics like these, there is a happy middle ground between being offensively political; but still promoting an environmentally friendly message that all people around the world should be able to get behind.
The worst part about this album is how I imagine it will primarily cater towards older folks (who I imagine are more familiar with Americana styles of music). As a 21 year old myself, I wish more younger people would be open minded to check out music in general; aside from those things they just hear on the radio. The diverse range of music I listen to, ranging from classic rock (such as the Dire Straits) to electronic/synthetic music and even to more extreme musical styles like black metal allows me to judge albums from a very objective perspective. While I undoubtedly have shown some positive bias towards the music of Doug Prescott on his album The Journey & The Deep Blue Sea, this is only because I found the music truly interesting from both a relaxed listener perspective; as well as from the perspective of being a working musician myself. The music found on this album is simply excellent, and even if you are not a fan of Americana music (or even put off by that term like I am somewhat!); there is something to enjoy here for fans of rock, blues, soul, and folk music.
I do not frequently do this, but The Journey & The Deep Blue Sea easily gets a 10/10 rating from me. I know excellence when I see (err...hear) it. I'd recommend that you check this album out and even consider purchasing it! Standout tracks for me are "Hideaway," "It's About Oil," and "Right Time, Right Place," and "Oh Maggie."
SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS:
Doug Prescott Website (you can go to the store and purchase this album here as well!)
Doug Prescott Reverbnation