I dove into John Dorsch’s Elevation wholly unfamiliar with the Canadian musician/songwriter/vocalist’s work. Dorsch spent his first several decades in music playing with a variety of regional acts and focusing on electric guitar with assorted acoustic guitar playing tossed in for good measure. It wasn’t until late in his journey that Dorsch’s playing took a turn and he began learning fingerstyle guitar. He further shifted his focus, moving away from his customary role as a sideman, and formed a duo with his wife Dani on percussion playing a mix of rock, folk, and pop originals. This diversification of his art has been a boon for Dorsch and it pays handsome artistic dividends from the beginning of Elevation through its conclusion.
I admire the chutzpah it takes to lead off a release such as this with an instrumental. Picking the title track for that honor is another bold move. “Elevation” introduces newcomers to Dorsch’s musical art with an uplifting and melodically first-class instrumental that spotlights his playing skills but, even more so, his sure compositional sense. The second track “Dragonfly” widened the scope of his talents for me as both his musical and lyrical acumen shine bright. It has a feather-light touch without ever seeming too slick or sweet.
“Nothing to Lose” has simmering energy despite its acoustic bent and a consistent pace that has listeners rolling right along with it from the start. The vocal melody fuses with the arrangement quite well and the production maintains an even keel between Dorsch’s voice and the instrumentation.
No one element dominates at the expense of the other. “You Are the One” is a much more plain-spoken love song than other tracks cut from the same cloth on this release. The affection of its lyrics, however, never sounds trite or succumbs to an overabundance of clichéd sentimentality.
He conjures much of the same energy for “Compromises” that I hear in the aforementioned “Nothing to Lose”. It has a brighter melodic bounce, however, and a clearer sense of dynamic contrast that holds the listener’s attention tighter than its earlier counterpart. It strikes an interesting contrast with the next song “Save Just One More Life”. This is a deliberate and glass-like delicate track that practically wafts around you, never pressing on listeners, but nonetheless leaving a mark. It radiates a profound humanity that will make it a favorite for many.
“Faith in Me” revisits his sharp sense of dynamism. It shares much of the same structural principles underlying the earlier “Compromises”, albeit with more “teeth”. Dorsch shades the later songs on Elevation with a stronger rock vibe than earlier tracks, thanks to the added electric guitar, and the moody arrangement of this particular track stands out. “Patience” shares the same predilection toward electric guitar, but couples it with a folkie vibe underneath the electrified bluster. “Down at the Lake”, the album’s closer, is easily the most dramatic invocation of electric guitar on the album and the ragged glory of this track brings Elevation to an end on a rugged yet well-played note. Seek this release out today because, I believe, it’s one of the year’s most interesting releases and holds up under repeated listens.