A lot has changed for Cleveland pop/soul band Winslow since their debut album, Crazy Kind of Love in 2008. There’s been a change in band’s lineup: only three original members, lead vocalist/songwriter Maurice Martin, saxophonist Matt Tieman, and keyboardist Curtis Tate remain from the band’s first album. Winslow has gotten older and, according to its members, the band has grown wiser. With their initial album release, Winslow was still trying to find its way, musically speaking. Crazy Kind of Love had strong pop sensibilities, with supple hints of soul and rock. The band even added a dash of funk when they brought in funk icon Bernie Worrell to play on a track. And while Crazy Kind of Love was a good album that made an impact, there was something missing musically; the project was missing an ingredient that, in hindsight, the band couldn’t quite put its finger on.
Winslow was looking forward to the next album, but a funny thing happened along the way. Originally, Winslow organically came together at Cleveland State University. The band was a tightly-knit bunch that was on the fast track to stardom. There had never been any major bumps in the road for Winslow during their formative years, but as with all successful bands, life happens.
Winslow’s plans to bring in a top-notch producer for their next album fell through, and the band hit a dead end. Morale was low. Members left the band. After making a splash, Cleveland’s best original band wasn’t sure if it was going to continue on. But there was a nagging feeling that Winslow couldn’t shake: the feeling that there was unfinished business. The band added three new members, drummer Jesse Marquardt, bassist Danny Kolliner, and guitarist Charlie Trenta. After some serious soul searching, Winslow circled its wagons and went back into the studio to create another album on its own terms.
The result of its soul searching is the band’s sophomore effort, Left of the Right Direction. With Left of the Right Direction, there’s nothing missing in the music, all of the musical ingredients mesh well. Winslow is clicking on all cylinders with this album. As with Crazy, Winslow recruited a heavy hitter to collaborate with, this time with Grammy Award winning producer Edwin “Tony” Nicholas (Barry White, Mary J. Blige, and Gerald Levert) on “Quarter-Life.” But Left of the Right Direction has Winslow written all over it, and that means lead vocalist Maurice Martin – the group’s heartbeat and taskmaster -- played a major role in producing the album.
Left of the Right Direction captures that lightning in a bottle. This is the type of album that turns heads in both the pop and R&B worlds. Whereas Crazy Kind of Love was mainly pop-influenced with some soul on the side, Left of the Right Direction flips the script and makes the album heavy on the soul side, with a mainstream appeal. As a producer, Martin finds his music ear and the band its musical touch. As a vocalist, Martin exhibits a vulnerability that is rarely seen among today’s singers.
Left of the Right Direction gives you a variety of genres in a soul/pop package, such as the Calypso/Caribbean tinged “Alone Tonight” a song that also blends soulful rhythm guitars with jazzy horns. On “Nothing’s Easy” Winslow gives you some gospel-tinged soul that you can both shout and groove to. “Mo’s Jam” is pure R&B soul, and Martin channels his inner soul lover man to tell the story in the song. The highlight track, though, is “The Change,” a politically-influenced tune that both stirs you and mellows you with its righteous, feel-good vibrations.
Each song on the album builds into a climatic finish that takes listeners on Winslow’s journey, its ups and downs and life experiences. And that’s just what Martin and the band intended. After a few years of drama and uncertainty, Winslow has put together a disc for the ages: Left of the Right Direction will hit many “best of” lists for 2013 and it positions this talented group for a level of attention and notoriety that has been years in the making. Highly Recommended.
By Gabriel Rich