Some songs start simply, while others take the scenic route to their destination. In the case of Barclay Martin’s song, it is a journey, continuing in directions that he never imagined possible. Even after teaching himself to play the guitar at the age of 17, he had no idea that his path would become littered with notes, both musically and those from abroad.
Never a fan of structured learning, Martin decided after a few years of college that the road was a better teacher and began traveling extensively, collecting the material that would later become his songs of the road. His music functions as a travelogue, with notes from all over, describing not only the sights that inspire, but the people of the world that show what humanity is, the disparate qualities that make the world a kaleidoscope, ever changing and always interesting.
Along the way, Martin’s music has changed, from his involvement with his first group, Potato Moon, to his solo effort Promise on a String, to his current incarnation, The Barclay Martin Ensemble. Martin’s music is hard to categorize, as it espouses sounds in varying styles, ranging from Potato Moon’s folksy bluegrass feel to the confessional acoustic guitar sounds of Promise on a String. In either incarnation, the sound retains the rich authenticity that Martin has become known for.
After extensive travel to Latin America and a 10 month journey across America promoting Promise on a String, Martin was ready to let his sound expand and grow again, adding to the mix the considerable talents of some of Kansas City’s best musicians. The Barclay Martin Ensemble adds a taste of Kansas City’s jazz heritage, especially with the addition of Mark Lowrey on piano, Giuliano Mignucci on drums, and Rick Willoughby on bass. The lovely and inimitable Erin McGrane lends her vocal talents to a group that is balanced and enthusiastic about music that not only describes the journey, but embodies it.
The Barclay Martin Ensemble works as a cohesive unit, with Martin as its lead troubadour, spinning tales of travels, and bears witness to the poverty and the beauty that is rampant in the world. The music is a delicious mélange of influences, jazzy and poppy, while still retaining a heartfelt acoustic feel. Their first release, Dawn, is a blend of these influences with the harmonic interplay of all members creating a unique sound inspired by the lessons learned and learning.
Much of the music is inspired by Martin’s work with the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging. Through the foundation, he became involved with a documentary, Zamboanga, a film about the cycle of poverty and war and the healing power of the music of the Philippines. His music reflects all that he learned there, lessons about the poverty of the everyday world and the generosity of spirit in those that have nothing else to give. Dawn is a musical testament to the strength and resilience that lies in the beating heart of humanity, without borders and without limits.