The music of Motown Records in the 1960’s and early 1970’s defined a city and a generation with its naïve love songs and hummable melodies. Songs from Smokey, Marvin, Diana and more were quick, catchy and timeless in their themes, bringing worldwide attention to Hitsville U.S.A. and Berry Gordy’s tiny record label. Now, nearly sixty years after the peak of Motown music, artists are still paying homage to this nostalgic sound while adding their own twists.
“Meet Virginia Violet and The Rays” is a new four song offering from the Detroit nine piece. The EP was recorded and engineered by Drew Bartosik and Nick Sapounas at HYDEMI Studios in Detroit.
The band defines their sound as “Modern Motown” and it’s a very fair self-perception. Virginia Violet and The Rays gracefully borrow from that playful Motown sound; short poppy songs structures, bubblegum backbeats that make you snap your fingers, strong blasts from the brass section and simple lyrics about love and loss. The band’s songs are more driving – the guitar solo on “Ray Gun Fire” sounds like an outtake from a Stooges song – than the old Motown songs and you can hear the influence of Detroit garage rock in the mix. What results is a feel good, inoffensive listen.
These four songs are reminiscent of other new school soul artists like Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, Lake Street Dive and Ann Arbor’s very own Mayer Hawthorne. The vintage 1960’s soul ethos of Brooklyn’s Daptone Records is also apparent in the group’s deep saxophone swells and triumphant trumpet blasts.
Virginia Violet and The Rays are not be breaking any new artistic ground on their new EP; these are all sounds we have heard before. Where the group succeeds is in carrying on Detroit’s tradition of soulful music and never allowing listeners to forget the sound that gave so much to the city.