Joe Dorsey knows rock and roll. I don’t mean that stuff you can hear on MTV or VH1. That’s not rock and roll. You’ll get some pop, some hip hop, some R&B, but you don’t get a whole lot of rock anymore.
Nor do I mean that stuff you can hear on your favorite alternative radio stations or that cool indie rock college station in town. I love all that stuff, but that’s not what I’m talking about when I say rock and roll.
Joe Dorsey knows the rock and roll of Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Cream. Classic rock and roll, back when it was still infused with the soulful sounds of blues, before grunge took over and changed everything.
I’m a huge fan of grunge music and all it’s touched, but there’s just nothing like hearing some good old-fashioned straight-up rock and roll.
And for that, you’ll do good looking toward Joe Dorsey and his new album Rest.
For those who haven’t been introduced yet, I hope I can convince you today to give the worship music of Joe Dorsey a listen. In a market crowded with Chris Tomlin look-alikes, it’s always a pleasure to hear something different, and Joe Dorsey is indeed that. While none of his songs totally blew me out of the water to the point where I sat and listened speechless, some came close, and they’re all good and all a little different from the “normal” contemporary worship songs out there.
But before I talk about the album, who is Joe Dorsey? Joe Dorsey leads worship at a Vineyard church alongside Aaron Boerboom (drums) and Grant Strong (bass). The three of them, plus studio musician Giles Reaves (keys), have recorded a worship album called Rest. The recording was all done live in the studio, all tracks being recorded in a single day and mixed another day. Because of this, the album feels very organic and live, definitely not overproduced and cluttered with engineered bells and whistles.
Dorsey grew up the youngest son in a family of six, came to know Jesus as a teenager, started learning guitar and writing music, eventually began leading worship at Vineyard churches, and now has recorded an album.
And how is that album? As I mentioned already, it has an overall vintage, bluesy, classic rock sound. This carries the album in both good and bad ways. On the good side, there are times you’ll feel all the energy and excitement that must have carried a Larry Norman or Phil Keaggy performance back in the day. Dorsey breaks out in guitar solos whenever it’s appropriate, showing off his obviously impressive skills on a six-string. Songs like “Praise You Again,” “Greatly To Be Praised,” and “Living Water” do more justice to good old-fashioned rock-n-roll than almost any other songs I’ve heard in worship music in a long time. Then there are songs like “Rest” and “Father to Me” which somehow capture the signature feel of the other side of 70s music – the smooth rock of bands like Steely Dan and America. When the songs lean towards either one of these directions, the album shines the brightest. It’s here where the merger of a pre-grunge rock-n-roll sound with modern worship music just works.
And what’s the bad side of the “vintage” sound? In an industry that prides itself on finding “the new thing,” the album can sound dated and slightly cheesy at times. While songs like “Strong,” “On the Mountain,” and “Faithful” are awesome worship songs, the music leaves me disappointed. I’ve been listening to the album a lot just because the spirit of it is so great and the words are awesome, but some of the songs definitely remind me of a mixture of early Vineyard worship blended with the cheesier songs I’d pass by on the 70’s radio station. Dorsey’s voice is almost too nice at times, the guitar too controlled, the piano too pretty. It’s at these times that I’d like to see a little more edge.
Aside from the sound, how does the album line up as a worship album? It’s really good, definitely better than a lot of stuff out there. These songs would work great for worship in a church setting, or in your personal time with God. Like I already mentioned, I’ve been listening to it all the time just because the words are so good. You won’t find any super-sappy worship songs or overly theological expositions in musical form. You’ve got your mix of slower stuff and more upbeat stuff, but overall it’s on the lighter, happier side of worship music, as opposed to the moody, intense, we’re-seeking-God-so-hard-our-heads-hurt side.
To finish off my thoughts, give Joe Dorsey a try. This isn’t the most cutting-edge sound in the world, and at times the music just doesn’t come together quite right, but when everything falls into place, the album becomes an impressive worship exploration into a classic rock-n-roll sound that you’d be dumb not to experience. Besides, this is just good worship, and you know you need more of that in your life.
Two of my favorite songs on the album Rest are “Father to Me” and “Greatly To Be Praised.” I’ve put them below for download, but first, some background. About “Father to Me” Dorsey says, “Since my relationship with my earthly father was strained at best, I’ve had to look to Jesus as my father in general. Words could not truly express how much love he has shown in my life. This song became a proclamation of who He is to me!”
And about “Greatly To Be Praised”: “Since I was young, I’ve always appreciated the grandness of the electric guitar. Plug into a large stack of amps and you’ve got a sound that’s larger than life. I wanted to capture the that I grew up with and give glory to God in the process. Hence “Greatly To Be Praised” was born.”
Anyway, hope you like ’em:
If you want to contact Joe Dorsey or support his ministry, send him an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: All MP3s will be removed after one week