“Take the High Road is symbolic of overcoming hardship to awaken into a new age of creative consciousness. The light at the end of your own tunnel. Angels building a bridge into the future. I feel blessed to have made this record with the help of some of the greatest musicians I know, who I feel honored to call my friends. Thanks to everyone who has a hand in this album. My family and The Most High! Blessings and love to all!” – VGM
I like to say that LostinSound works to support innovative musicians who create compositions and a sound all their own. More often than not, this has us showcasing and exploring electronic producers. However, I am always on the hunt for an artist or band who provides a fresh take on a classic sound and couples it with a message that is timely and conscious. The newly formed Van Gordon Martin Band gives me that feeling. The band’s second album, Take the High Road, features members of John Brown’s Body, Club D’elf, The Slip, Dub Apocalypse, Otis Grove and former Spiritual Rez horn alumni. It also features Justin Perkins of Toubab Krewe on the seraphim sweet single, “Dreams.”
Van Gordon Martin is lead vocalist, sole guitarist, maestro of the Juno Synth and Dub scientist. He also produced, arranged and wrote all of the songs on Take the High Road. No wonder he gets to have the band named after him. A former student of Bernie Worrell (Talking Heads/Parliament Funkadelic), Van’s guitar skills continue to improve since his eight years playing lead in Spritual Rez. Now, front and center, Van rips it up like a dready Santana. Seconds after I popped the album into my stereo and heard the fatty dub bassline of the opener, “Home,” I knew I was gonna get my groove on. Such fullness, such warmth for me to daydream of one of the most elusive concepts in my life. “Light from above, burn visions into my mind. I’m locked away, the only place for me to stay…Home.” Goddamn, I know that feeling well. Van’s hinting on that idea that no matter where you are, you gotta make that where you live true. You also get a little taste of the dancing Tenor, Alto and Baritone saxaphones, as well as the sly vocals of Chantal Ambroisel.
On the tune, “Another World,” atomospheric instrumentation sets up a surreal dream where a lady spreaads her wings to fly off away to another world. It reminds me of some acoustic Sound Tribe jam. Loving some of the bass riddums and the classy Count Basie-era sax solo. “I Never Knew,” is one of the mellow songs on the album made for pondering a lost love or a new one. “Swirling Colors,” has a Tom Waits growl and a Bukowski sexual sentiment and shows off that old school Hendrix or Stevie Ray Rock n Roll guitar riffaage. During the album launch show at Cambridge’s Middle East Downstairs, I was standing five feet away from the band and felt like I was glued to the ground as they played this song. “Hard Decision,” a heavy hitting funk roots jam, built to show off each instrumentalist, brings the album to a close. The Wurlitzer play is most righteous on this track and pairs well with the skank guitar and a horn section that plays like a chorus.
Living in Boston, I have seen many Funk, Dub, and Roots style bands on stages both small and large. It’s not always easy for me to feel a special connection with one of these acts, but VGMB has shown me that they can hold my attention both on stage and in their studio work. Also, I can’t say enough about the versatility and fearlessness that Van possesses vocally, from Barry White lows to Curtis Mayfield’s highs. A part of me wants to list off all the great lyrical moments of the album to you, but I’ll hold off and just tell you to give all these tracks on Take the High Road a complete listen, from the soulful spirit to the words.
Catch Van Gordon Martin Band at one of these upcoming dates:
Aug 3 – Naukabout Music Festival – Falmouth, MA
Aug 10 – Craft Beer and Reggae Festival – Rochester, NH
Sep 5- South Shore Music Hall – Quincy, MA