Darker Still – Gabriel Douglas (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Not so long ago the haunting sound of I Want More by Silverback Colony found its way to me, a dark and drifting, innovative and imploring musical slice, unexpected and brilliant. Gabriel Douglas, the captain of that particular sonic ship, returns, again aided and abetted by Kai Brewster, for a full album under his own name and that same sense of space and melancholia is at work on this 9-track offering.

Hearts Want is the sort of opening number which stops you in your tracks, and listening to it from an ocean away, sounds like the very sound of America itself. I’m not sure if that makes it “Americana,” I’m yet to find two people who agree on what that generic label actually means, but this is certainly music being made from the sharp end of generations of people who have lived a tough and challenging life in that country. Unmistakably so.

Holding Patterns is a sparse and haunted track, a gentle weave of acoustic guitars and a voice which holds the listener spellbound and fixed to the spot, Morning Coming is more optimistic, a celebration of the restless life and Ain’t Gonna Fight is a love/loss song delivered like only Douglas can.

Listening to the album the music draws images of Steinbeck’s dustbowl protagonists such as Tom Joad and Lennie Small, of Kerouac’s highways opening up across the country before him, of small town heroes just trying to get by, looking for a better life. Music’s ability to paint pictures, write stories behind the ones initially planned by the author, is what makes it so great and if Gabriel Douglas never intended those people to be part of the tale, they are there for me now.

Some music talks, some tells tales, the best conjures worlds, planned or otherwise. Darker Still falls into the latter category for sure.

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