Gregory Douglass, Up & Away
(Emote Records, CD)
At this point, Burlington singer-songwriter Gregory Douglass could publish a how-to book on DIY recording, marketing and self-promotion. He's a virtual one-man industry whose work has been heard on national TV and radio, all without the benefit of major (or minor, for that matter) label support.
Douglass' latest, Up &; Away, is his sixth full-length CD, and I'm convinced it's his best to date. I know I said that about his previous effort, Stark, but I'll be damned if the new effort doesn't top it.
On his last disc, Douglass traded his typical pop vibrancy for solemn introspection. In place of the fresh-faced jingles about unrequited love were reflective musings on, well, unrequited love. For his latest, he more or less splits the difference. Make no mistake about it - Up & Away showcases a truly mature artist. But instead of wallowing, Douglass puts his songwriting gifts to work on 11 well-rounded, beautifully voiced tunes.
Recorded and mixed locally, the album sounds as good as any big-budget production. The band on the disc is composed of Douglass on keyboards and vocals, Aaron Cowan on guitar, Stephen Holt on bass and Todd Gevry on drums. Additional flavor comes from guest trumpet, cello and clarinet players.
If you don't dig big melodies, vocal quavers and contemporary production, Up & Away probably isn't your bag. It's not indie-rock, that's for damn sure. But from the effervescent opener "Light Don't Shine" to the chordal swells of the closing title track, this album is full of emotion and sonic detail.
And there's plenty of great stuff in between: "Living" is a metro-ready piano-driven number propelled by disco rhythms and soaring harmonies, while "Annablle" is a confessional cut that's melodically adventurous despite its muted dynamics.
Equally moving is the meditative "Into the Sunset," which illustrates the depth of Douglass' vocal range. He sings the verses in a honeyed baritone, before edging slowly into a multi-tracked chorus as colorful as the sunset the title invokes.
"See You Cry" makes fine use of acoustic guitar and tinkling piano. It's a nice break from the operatic density common to the rest of the record. Still, there are probably at least four or five background vocals fluttering around Douglass' main melody like pristine doves.
There's no telling how much further Douglass' talent will take him, but my guess is both up and away. Catch his CD release party at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge on Sunday, December 3, with Zac Clark.