Artist: New Latitude
Album: Vantage Point
Genre: Contemporary Acoustic Instrumental
Sounds Like: The Allman Brothers Band, Phil Keaggy
Technical Grade: 7/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 7/10
Commercial Value: 7/10
Overall Talent Level: 7/10
Songwriting Skills: 7/10
Performance Skills: 7/10
Best Songs: The Journey, Birds of Prey, Victorious
Strengths: High level of musicianship, sophisticated compositions with great melodies
Weaknesses: Difficult to appreciate as a “stand-alone” album in the current music market
New Latitude is a four-piece instrumental group based in the Denver, Colorado area that regularly blends contemporary acoustic sounds with blues, jazz, and classical influences. The band consists of two primary members, guitarists Dave Erickson and Jim Carr, who originally collaborated to form New Latitude three years ago. Additionally, bassist Robert Strickland and drummer Deon Kuhl frequently join the duo to aid with live performances and studio recordings. This most recent album, titled Vantage Point, is the band’s second effort following their debut album, Convergence.
The sound of New Latitude’s Vantage Point is as refreshing as it is sophisticated. The eleven tracks of layered, dynamic instrumentation and unique musical synergy, coupled with the overall polished and crisp nature of the production quality, creates an experience comparable to a warm morning stroll along a quiet, tranquil beach. The fantastic musicianship throughout Vantage Point is perhaps the most integral component to contribute to the artistic successes of this album. Erickson and Carr evidently posses keen understanding of effective music composition, and have created an elaborate array of fluid guitar arrangements that compliment each other perfectly. However, the greatest facet to this album comes from it’s truly decisive and well-crafted melodies. Often simplistic and subtle when considered from an isolated perspective, New Latitude’s seasoned musicianship and overall interpersonal synergy transforms melody into an enveloping, refreshing experience that that absolutely exudes creativity and originality. One of the most difficult elements of music composition is creating a melody, playing with the melody, and exploring musical avenues around that melody in a fresh and unique fashion. New Latitude proves they are capable of this task in multiple instances throughout Vantage Point, considering dynamic and sophisticated compositions such as “The Journey” and “Birds of Prey”. The main melody in “Victorious” is perhaps one of the top fifty greatest melodies written over the past three years in any genre of music. New Latitude’s sound is undoubtedly contemporary acoustic instrumental, yet their influences are evidently everything from blues to classical; some of the songs tend to be much more jazz oriented, while others tend to be a bit looser and dabble about a retro rhythm and blues experience. Maybe the most concise comparison to make with New Latitude’s music would be to say that its like the overall presentation of Phil Keaggy, but with some of the tendencies The Allman Brothers Band used to have when they would go into long, extended blues jams that usually got pretty jazz-oriented, modal, and melodic.
Attempting to sell Vantage Point as a stand-alone album will probably be a little difficult. People just don’t really buy instrumental albums, or value instrumental songs, as much as they used to. In short, for as great as the record is, and as great as the musicians are that played on it, this music probably won’t sell very well if it’s put out simply for the sake of the music itself. This is quite unfortunate, but is usually the case with instrumental albums of this sort in a contemporary market. The average person who buys music wants, in general, conventional song structures, familiar composition formats, and lyrics they can sing to. New Latitude doesn’t offer these things.
However, in no sense does that mean that Vantage Point isn’t an album that has great potential. The applications for these songs could be endless, supposing the artists are creative in their approach to marketing them, or if marketing their music and getting it out to a mass audience is something that even interests them in the first place. These songs could be sold for TV shows, commercials, and movies. They could be played at large company gatherings, on genre-appropriate radio stations, and at a host of both family and business-oriented festivals and events. This is good music, these musicians are evidently very experienced, have great synergy, and know how to compose dynamic and crisp songs. The only “challenge” that might exist for New Latitude and Vantage Point is to find the right outlets with which to disperse this sound. It probably won’t be that difficult, because when the music is good, some kind of people tend to flock to it, no matter what the music is, or who those people might be. Overall, a fantastic album.