John Dorsch’s “Elevation” (LP) 

John Dorsch is the epitome of a musician’s musician. He hasn’t headlined stadiums with his various bands or hit the top of the Billboard charts playing electric guitar. He’s spent decades, however, perfecting his art for his edification and generations of appreciative local audiences without ever resting on his laurels. He’s transitioned in recent years from traditional electric and acoustic playing into fingerstyle guitar and singing lead vocals in an acoustic duet format. Joined by his wife Dani playing African Djembe drum, percussion, and supplying blended harmony vocals, the Ottawa Valley, Ontario-based musical artist’s new offering Elevation is a sprawling fifteen-track collection. It exemplifies the best of his work thus far.


He opens the album in a bold manner. The title track is an instrumental highlighting his aforementioned fingerstyle skills and dazzles listeners with its uplift. Dorsch, however, is never a showy guitarist intent on wowing his audience with empty demonstrations of skill. He builds “Elevation” around consistent melodic strengths that ebb and flow through the entirety of the piece.

The first number with lyrics, “Dragonfly”, turns the spotlight onto his pastoral leanings and the potent harmony vocals he achieves with his wife. The song’s tether to the natural world is one of its glittering qualities that doesn’t sound hokey or forced but, instead, as a clear outgrowth of Dorsch’s personality. His eloquent lead guitar work punctuates the song nicely.

“Nothing to Lose” boasts one of the album’s best arrangements. The chorus, in particular, proves to be a memorable high point that expands on the song’s primary melodic motif without stepping too far outside of the song’s structure. His guitar work, once again, shines. “Seasons” is another instrumental piece that relies more on atmospherics than the album opener while still extolling the same melodic virtues. His wife Dani’s percussion gives the track a key ballast for Dorsch’s guitar playing to build around.

He alternates between evocatively spaced passages and full-throated musicality during the song “Compromises”. Dorsch doesn’t have a traditionally strong singing voice and leans more toward speaking rather than typical vocals with this one, but the writing is among the album’s strongest. The effect of his near-spoken word delivery doesn’t make the cut stilted in any way. “Save Just One Life” has an ethereal tilt more pronounced than most of Elevation’s songs. Dani’s harmonies are again a bright spot and the obvious spirit moving Dorsch throughout this song never fades. His musicianship stays as luminous as ever.


“Fort Hemlock” is an instrumental that mines Ontario’s local history for its inspiration. Contretemps between two local business owners escalate into a violent tit-for-tat feud that leaves wreckage in its wake and the physical, head-long attack of Dorsch’s instrumental talents embodies the rancor well. “On My Way to Mexico” is an outstanding late track full of specific lyrical details given added life by Dorsch’s zesty vocal performance.

The finale “Down at the Lake” exhibits Dorsch’s dramatic rock guitar, full of emotion and bordering on chaotic, yet it’s an intentional effect. His vocals center the song, pulling it back from the maelstrom, and breathe life into another five-star lyric. John Dorsch’s Elevation has a wide stylistic range that should please casual and devoted music listeners alike.

Mark Druery