John Dorsch’s trek through the wilds of popular music in the second half of the 20th century and beyond embodies what it means to be a musical artist. He hasn’t enjoyed the material success of many contemporaries, he hasn’t made the cover of Rolling Stone magazine or other publications of their ilk, but he continues writing, playing, and recording with the yeoman dedication of a truly artistic temperament. His new release Elevation continues perfecting that art for a new generation of listeners. The fifteen songs slated for this recording present us with a compelling cross-section of themes as well as a variety of musical faces. It’s invigorating from the first track through its finale.
It’s an album of ebb and flow. The mood, however, is predominantly positive. “Elevation” is an instrumental that certainly fits that mold as the melodic glow it gives off ushers us into the release on an affirmative note. Dorsch’s production for the song, and elsewhere on the album, places an obvious emphasis on the instruments and the warm sound is inviting. That all-enveloping welcome continues with the second cut “Dragonfly”. This is a song surrounded by a welcoming pastoral aura that strengthens its already fine lyrical content. Writing from a first-person perspective encourages the intimacy he wants.
The pop-folk tilt of “Passage to Perth” derives a lot of its impressive effects from a sense of history and place that folk music devotees will cherish. The straightforward nature of both the lyrics and backing instrumentation gains a lot from the vocal harmonies, an across-the-board strength of the entire release, and the unexpected shifts of the arrangement provide their own rewards as well.
“Save Just One More Life” is arguably the album’s most elegant performance and composition with a near-angelic grace that will move countless listeners. Despite the naturalness of the performance, you cannot have any doubt that Dorsch gave considerable time and attention to this track and the results justify the effort.
He makes a 180-degree turn with the cut “Faith in Me”. It has an intense and inward quality despite the song title and the dramatic structure of the song morphs as the track progresses. He tailors each vocal to fit the song and his instincts for the individual direction each number demands never fail him. They certainly don’t here. “Farewell Beautiful” has a rousing spirit despite its valedictory feel and much of this is thanks to the steady climb of its arrangement. His electric guitar playing reaches another peak as well.
“On My Way to Mexico” has a cinematic flavor we don’t get from many of the other tracks. This standout aspect of the song gains even more from an arrangement that stresses the drama without ever coming off as overwrought or overbearing. Many listeners will peg this track as having one of the best lyrics penned for this release. John Dorsch’s Elevation travels in a multitude of directions over the course of its fifteen songs and some are stronger than others, but it’s a coherent and fulfilling release that deserves your attention.