||If you’ve been a fan of instrumental music as long as this reviewer has, you will certainly hear echoes of the seminal acoustic guitar-driven ensemble, Acoustic Alchemy, within a few minutes of listening to the second album from New Latitude, Vantage Point. Not in any imitative or derivative way at all, but let’s face it, there are not that many groups that are fronted by a pair of acoustic guitarists who make highly enjoyable music, music designed to make you glad to be alive, which is exactly how I feel every time I play Vantage Point. The two cats who wield their acoustic guitars with style and finesse are Dave Erickson and Jim Carr. They are quite ably assisted by bassist Robert Strickland and drummer/percussionist Deon Kuhl. These four musicians know how to cook, so to speak, and the musical gumbo they serve up is going to reward the listener with more than a few memorable musical meals!
Not everything on Vantage Point is uptempo and energetic, but enough of it is that this has become one of my favorite “drive time” recordings, especially when I know I won’t be stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. These eleven tracks beg for the open road, a sunny sky, and some curves to swing through while the musicians unfurl their melodies and rhythms, both of which are in ample abundance on this great album.
Sometimes, you just need straight-up, grin-inducing music—tunes that will get inside your spine and relax it, but not in a way to make you slow down as much as to start enjoying life in the moment. That’s what New Latitude specialize in, i.e. music to celebrate the every day wonder of life, whether it be a winding country lane, a stop at a roadside small-town diner for a great cheeseburger, or a cruise up the coast to watch the sunset. Infectious is the watch word here, with hook-laden melodies and a solid rhythm section backing it to anchor with just enough “oomph” to tap your feet and/or snap your fingers.
Now and then, an astute listener might detect a hint of world influence on some tracks—maybe a dash of bossa nova or a subtle air of the Mediterranean, but what Erickson and Carr deliver more than anything else is superb musicianship linked with a composing and performing style that wastes no time in getting to the point. All of the tracks clock in at under five minutes, so these tunes make their musical statement in the first few bars, which I personally love. There is a place, of course, for patiently evolving music, but this ain’t in, brother.
I could probably wax eloquently on every song, trying to pick out faves but there isn’t a weak link on this album, although the higher energy tunes are the ones that clean my clock the most, e.g. “The Journey,” “Just Ride,” (with that aforementioned hint of bossa nova sassiness), and the insanely catchy “Halcyon Days,” but the “slower” (relatively speaking) tracks, e.g. “Gone Before” and “Incantare” are every bit a delight as the more revved up tunes.
It’s easy, folks—New Latitude “gets it.” Absolutely one of the least pretentious and yet hugely talented ensembles I’ve heard in a while. If you have any love for acoustic guitar music, you simply have to check these cats out. From any vantage point, you’ll get a fantastic view of musical magic!