DOUG PAISLEY-STRONG FEELINGS.
DOUG PAISLEY-STRONG FEELINGS.
For anyone yet to discover Doug Paisley’s music, you’ve been missing out on one of the most talented singer-songwriters of his generation. Born in Toronto, Canada, Doug has just released his third album Strong Feelings on No Quarter Records. Strong Feelings is a fusion of alternative country, Americana and folk. The album contains well crafted songs that bring to mind songwriters like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Gram Parsons and John Martyn. Listening to Strong Feelings is like a trip back In time, to the seventies, which for many people, was the golden age of the singer-songwriter. Doug Paisley it seems, is the keeper of the flame for the singer songwriter. He has been since 2008, when he released his eponymous debut album.
It was in November 2008, that Doug released his debut album Doug Paisley. Released on No Quarter Records, critics hailed Doug’s fusion of alternative country, Americana and folk. Comparisons were drawn with the classic singer-songwriters of the seventies. One of the artists Doug was compared to, was Neil Young, circa Harvest. Other album I’d compare Doug Paisley to, are Bob Dylan’s trio of John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline and even the overlooked New Morning. These influences can be heard on Doug Paisley, which launched the career of Canada’s latest troubadour.
Two years after his eponymous debut album, Doug returned with his sophomore album Constant Companion in 2010. During the two previous years, Doug had been busy touring and honing his sound. This didn’t affect the quality of music on Constant Companion. Just like his debut album, Constant Companion was a melange of alternative country, Americana and folk. Doug was still flying the flag for the singer-songwriter. Critics approved of this. They recognised that Doug had a big future ahead of him. His music seemed to have matured. He was essentially a storyteller, who captivated his listeners. Soon, word was spreading about Doug Paisley. Surely, he was on the cusp of a breakthrough commercially?
After a gap of nearly four years, Doug released his third album Strong Feelings on 20th January 2014. It was released to critical acclaim. Critics forecasted that Strong Feelings would be the album that saw Doug Paisley make a commercial breakthrough.
Strong Feelings features ten songs written by Doug Paisley, who played guitar and produced the album with Stew Crookes. Doug’s band featured a rhythm section of bassists Brazil Donavon and Darcy Yates, drummer Rob Drake and Gary Craig plus guitarist Emmett Kelly. Gareth Hudson, Robbie Grunwald and Jason Sniderman played keyboards, while Colin Stetson played horns and Jay Anderson and Stew Crooks played tambourine. Backing vocals include Mary Margaret O’Hara, Tamara Linderman and Alfie Junvaren. This was the band that played on what’s meant to be Doug Paisley’s breakthrough album Strange Feelings? However, are the critics right and Strange Feelings is the album that’ll see Doug Paisley make a commercial breakthrough? That’s what I’ll tell you.
Radio Girl opens Strong Feelings and sees Doug throw a curveball. That curveball is the melancholy piano. It drops out, giving way to a alt-country arrangement. Crystalline guitars, reminiscent of Wilco and The Jayhawks join the rhythm section. They set the scene for Doug’s lived-in, wistful vocal. It’s accompanied by tender backing vocals, piano and keyboards, while the guitars and rhythm section are ever-present, as Doug forever the storyteller, paints pictures with his melancholy lyrics.
Song My Love Can Sing has a much more traditional country sound. That’s apart from the washes of Hammond organ. It fills out the arrangement, proving a perfect foil. Just a strummed guitar chimes, as a thoughtful, pensive Doug remembers a time and place, when happiness was within his grasp. That was long ago. Now older and wiser, he realises what he had. As if emotion gets the better of him, his vocal drops out. This allows his band to showcase their inconsiderable talent, as they combine country’s past and present. Then when Doug’s vocal returns, he years for what he had and lost, all these years ago. Emotive, wistful and beautiful, it’s a song many people will be able to relate to.
Just a lone guitar opes It’s Not Too Late (To Say Goodbye) before the rhythm section and crystalline guitars join forces with Doug’s vocal. He sounds not unlike Michael Stipe of R.E.M. as alt-country, folk and indie rock combine. Later, Doug’s joined by baking vocalist Tamara Linderman. They prove a potent partnership, mixing emotion and passion. Then comes the breakdown, where the band enjoy their moment in the spotlight. When Doug’s vocal returns, you’re reminded why this one of the highlights of Strange Feeling. There’s no shortage of hooks during this anthemic track which would make a great single. It’ll also prove a festival favourite during the summer.
Our Love features a much more subdued Doug on a track that’s a mixture of traditional and alt-country. The rhythm section provide an understated backdrop, while guitars reverberate and keyboards drift in and out. As Doug sings: “it’s just you and me, My Love” you wonder what he’s feeling. Is it love or regret? Joy and happiness seem absent. Is Doug trapped in a relationship that’s gone wrong?
The combination of a lone guitar that’s joined by a piano provide the perfect backdrop for Doug on What’s Up is Down. Confusion surrounds Doug. This is evident when he sings “What’s Up is Down, what’s wrong is right.” It’s a cathartic laying bare of his soul. Accompanying him is Alfie Jurvanen. She matches Doug every step of the way for sincerity and emotion. A rasping horn and rambling piano add the finishing touches to what’s one of the most beautiful paeans I’ve heard in a long, long time.
Old Times sounds totally unlike a 21st Century song. It sounds more like a song recorded in the early seventies, the heyday of the singer-songwriter. That’s how good Doug Paisley is. His vocal is tender and wistful, as he delivers a heartfelt, needy vocal. You sense he means it, as he sings “I’m going to wait for you.” Washes of Hammond organ, chiming guitar and understated rhythm section accompany Doug, as he paints pictures with his lyrics. They’re evocative and have a cinematic quality. This proves that the singer-songwriter is still alive and well.
Growing Souls is slow, spacious song, which is atmospheric. Doug sounds not unlike Jackson Browne. His vocal is slow, thoughtful and deliberate. Behind him, washes of Hammond organ, guitars and probing bass combine. Elements of alt-country, country, folk and indie combine. Later, the track takes on a lo-fi sound, thanks to the keyboards. Even that works. It’s used as a stepping stone as Doug unleashes an impassioned, gut-wrenching vocal, while Hammond organ and harmonies accompany him. Bookended by vintage guitars, Growing Souls shows another side of Doug Paisley.
To and Fro opens with some of the best guitar licks on the album. Crystalline, they head in a rocky direction as Doug and his band draw inspiration from the classic rock of the sixties and seventies. Doug though, draws inspiration from country music. What follows is reminiscent of the patron saint of Canadian music Neil Young. Accompanied by a myriad of searing, blistering guitar licks and the rhythm section, this seems to inspire Doug, as he fuses classic rock and country seamlessly.
As Where the Light Takes You meanders into being, its inconsiderable charms worm their way into your consciousness. Hooks certainly haven’t been rationed, on this slice of alt-country. Accompanied by the rhythm section, searing guitars, Hammond organ and harmonies Doug delivers an emotive vocal. He’s happy and it shows. Accompanied by backing vocalists, he sings about having found love, and the realisation his partner is a free spirit. Doug’s afraid she won’t stay long in the same place. When he sings: “you’ll go Where the Light Takes You, he wonders if this relationship won’t last? Then he feels guilty, as if holding her back. He feels bad for hoping she stays with him. A hook-laden, emotion roller coaster, with a sing-along quality, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Closing Strong Feelings is Because I Love You. With just his trusty guitar for company, Doug returns to his country roots and delivers a tender vocal. He’s accompanied by Margaret Mary O’Hara and they sing the song as a duet. The result is a quite beautiful song that’s a reminder of what music used to sound like.
There’s no doubt about it, Doug Paisley is a seriously talented singer-songwriter. He’s a reminder that there are still musicians who can write their own songs. Proof of that is Strong Feelings. Then when he sings the ten songs on Strong Feelings, they come alive. They’re like ten short stories. Tales of betrayal, love and love gone wrong, you can picture these scenarios unfolding. Many of the songs have a cinematic quality. Close your eyes and the scenes unfold in front of your eyes. Not many contemporary singers can do that. Doug Paisley can. That’s why listening to Doug’s third album Strange Feelings is like a return to the golden age of the singer-songwriter. Strong Feelings is also a coming of age for Doug Paisley.
Strong Feelings is the album where Doug Paisley’s music should attract a much wider audience. He’s come of age and deserves to be heard by a record buying public starved of quality new music. From the opening bars of Radio Girl, right through to the closing bars of Because I Love You, Doug Paisley has you captivated. It’s music that’s absorbing, beautiful, cathartic, cinematic, emotive, enthralling and heart-wrenching. That’s why Doug Paisley deserves to make a commercial breakthrough after five years of trying.
During that period, Doug Paisley has spent time honing his sound and recording two albums. Just like Strong Feelings, they showcase a talented singer, songwriter, musician and now producer. Doug has been influenced by the music of the late-sixties and early-seventies. That’s no bad thing though, given how much important music was recorded then. However, there’s much more to Doug Paisley’s music than that. There’s the Atl Country of the nineties, plus traditional country music, Americana, folk, indie and rock. He’s taken this eclectic selection of influences and genres, then given them his own twist. The result is Doug Paisley’s third album Strong Feelings, a refreshingly eclectic album where each track offers something different and new. That’s why I’d describe Doug Paisley’s Strong Feelings as a classic in-waiting. Standout Tracks: Radio Girl, Song My Love Can Sing, It’s Not Too Late (To Say Goodbye) and What’s Up is Down.
DOUG PAISLEY-STRONG FEELINGS.