Joey Dosik And The Future of Soul

A Review of His Oct. 10 Performance at Pearl Street Warehouse

Joey Dosik performing at the Pearl Street Warehouse. Photo Matt Litman

“Refreshing” is the best adjective to describe Joey Dosik’s Oct. 10th performance at The Pearl Street Warehouse.

Dosik, accompanied by guitarist James Cornelison, bassist Solomon Dorsey, drummer James Williams and percussionist Liliana De Los Reyes, swayed and smiled blindly throughout his set; his audience followed suit. The stage was set up simply. The five musicians played in close quarters, each washed over in different shades of red and blue.

DC was the first stop on his tour; and Dosik repeatedly said how thankful he was for the warm and surprisingly large reception. In the middle of telling a story that would serve as a transition to his popular single, ‘Game Winner,’ he seemed particularly touched when an audience member yelled out his own segue to the song. Dosik took the queue, seamlessly transitioning into the hit. Before closing out his set, Dosik went back to that moment and that fan, likening it to a “trust fall.”

Dosik’s cover of Bill Withers’ Stories was one of the highlights of the night. Before embarking, he asked the rumbling crowd to settle down for a “quiet” song. Standing up behind his Rhodes keyboard, arms at his sides, he launched into the cover  acapella,  commanding the attention of those sitting in the balcony.

Dosik juxtaposed himself with DC’s own legend, Marvin Gaye. Dosik has covered Gaye’s songs for years. Gaye clearly serves as his major inspiration.  They sound eerily similar. Gaye’s influence is heard all over Dosik’s vocals, from the swelling riffs to his very tone.

To end his set, Dosik performed the entire A-side of Marvin Gaye’s 1971 album What’s Going On. These six songs captured a nation’s widespread, contemporary grief. They reflect Gaye’s fatalistic outlook on a world that back then seemed so far from changing. Just look at some of his lyrics:

I just want to ask a question
Who really cares? …
Who’s willing to try to save a world
That’s destined to die?” – from Gaye’s
Save The Children  

“War is hell, when will it end,
When will people start gettin’ together again
Are things really gettin’ better, like the newspaper said? …
Money is tighter than it’s ever been
Say man, I just don’t understand
What’s going on across this land”
– from Gaye’s What’s Happening Brother)

In contrast, 47 years later, Dosik’s own songs are imbued with a kind of foolish hopefulness and generosity. A glass half-full, not devastatingly-empty kind of attitude. Look at these lines from Dosik’s Take Mine:

“I’ll give you anything you need
You don’t have to beg and plead
To take mine
Take some of mine.
I’ll give you all you’re asking me
Take my eyes so you can see.” – from Dosik’s
Take Mine

Or this stanza from his song, In Heaven:

“If I could start with a joke or two
Get a smile to come out of you
Give you all that I’ve got to give
So we could sing a song like the angels did.” – from Dosik’s
In Heaven

While many of Dosik’s songs are about breakups and missed connections, Don’t Want It To Be Over, Running Away, Competitive Streak), their melodies and lyrics leave the song’s subjects room for redemption and reunion. No situation is too dire for a soaring vocal line or a glissando down the piano. There’s always the hope that old lovers are thinking about him, too.

Dosik has his stories. So do Gaye and Withers. What separates Dosik from his older influences is his contemporary frame. Coming out of a burgeoning L.A. music scene, Dosik appears to be one of the most talented and seasoned artists of the decade. Refined by years of collaboration and revision of his material, his lyrics are delicate and heartfelt. A world-class musician, he is equally at home on the keyboard, saxophone and guitar. I can’t think of anyone else like him in the industry.

Dosik’s performance encouraged his audience to put all their worries to the side. Take solace that there’s still music like this being made. To sway, sing and smile along. It was a reprieve from the everyday and, for that, I was grateful.