Break It Down
Dustin Douglas & The Electric Gentlemen (DDEG) have grown since their debut in 2016, that hailed the arrival of the captivating power trio, a regional favorite, from Wilkes-Barre in northeast PA. Numerous live gigs have paid huge dividends as this trio is so tight. The rhythm section of bassist Matt “The Dane” Gabriel and drummer Tom Smallcomb, lay down a thumping groove that allows Douglas to surf, scream, glide or punctuate his incendiary guitar lines. This time around, they helped write and shape the songs too.
Dustin Douglas has already built a reputation in the area as a dazzling guitarist with animated stage presence. His power trio’s sound hearkens back mostly to the era of Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Cream. Douglas covers Stevie Ray Vaughan as well as anyone and believe me, he’s got Jimmy Page down too. He likes playing his axe through vintage equipment and describes his music as a bit of hybrid between contemporary and classic blues rock.
Dustin has been playing since age 12 and was praised for his passionate vocals and charisma even then. He also played and recorded with the acclaimed Badlees as their lead guitarist for five years and will still guest with them on occasion on reunion gigs. This is his third CD as bandleader, a stronger record than its predecessor, his 2016 self-titled release and his 2017 EP Blues 1. Break it Down was co-produced by Paul Smith, who also contributes backing vocals and synthesizers, and Douglas who penned all 12 tracks. The slide guitar driven “No More Tears to Cry” was also previously released on the EP.
One of the first impressions is the aggressive drumming of Smallcomb, who has a similar no holds barred attack as John Bonham or Ted McKenna of Rory Gallagher’s band. His rhythm mate gives Douglas the walking and thumping lines for Douglas to soar on his spiraling, improvisational solos (i.e. “Ain’t No Denying”). The other impression is that there’s an integration of other sounds here beyond blues. Traces of hip-hop and contemporary R&B give this album a “now” rather than throwback feel.
The album builds in a smoldering way as there’s just a bit of restraint in some of the opening tracks. By the time we get to last third of the album with tracks like “Out of My Mind” and “Your Face Is Stunning” the band is raging full throttle. Sparks are flying. It’s a bit like the baseball pitcher who has an arsenal of deceptive and off-speed pitches for effect, but the one you’re worried about is that split-fingered fastball that tails away. With the game on the line, he’s giving the batter a steady diet of that one filthy pitch. Similarly, when Douglas completely lets loose, his riffs too are filthy. Don’t expect the slow, finessed stuff. These guys like to shake your windows and rattle your walls.
- Jim Hynes