Josh Doyle – Looking through Fresh Eyes

It was an absolute pleasure to re-discover Josh Doyle in 2012, the lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter for one of my favorite bands in the UK in the 2000’s, the Dum Dums.  They were all over the UK Charts with classic early “light” pop punk like ‘Everything I Do’, and the fabulous and memorable ballad, ‘Army of Two’. It was an acoustic version of this last song on his YouTube account that led me to Josh as he began his 2012 successful campaign to become Guitar Center’s Singer Songwriter of the Year. Still writing distinct and captivating guitar and vocal epics, the first new work I heard from him in years was ‘I Figured the World Out’, which we reviewed here, and then strong new late 2012 single ‘Solarstorms’; Josh goes from strength to strength, and it’s a pleasure to pick up his latest work, ‘My Jerusalem’ for review.

Josh Doyle 5

Josh has a very distinct all-round performance and writing style; I like the fact that most of his video work is live, generally just himself and a guitar. Clearly where he is at his very best; open, singing, playing, and being utterly vulnerable and emotional in his delivery, in Josh you can see and hear a real passion to get his message out there. In conversation, coming across as humbly witty, a little clumsy and shy in front of an audience, the man transforms when he gets behind that guitar and mic. And so it is that I’ve deliberately given you the live version of single ‘My Jerusalem’ at the Rutledge, at his home in Nashville, Tennessee, at the foot of this post so you can get a true sense of what an impassioned and committed performance by a real artist is all about. Josh is one of the best, a musician with integrity through and through.

Listen with me to the studio version of ‘My Jerusalem’.

The opening chords are beautiful; clean, bright guitars, preempting the powerful work we’re about to hear; and Josh is in with the vocal. As I mentioned, he has a unique voice – it’s been evident through his entire career, a tone which you can’t mistake and is very much “Josh Doyle”.  Starting the song quietly and understated, leaving room for the skyscraper he is about to build before our eyes, he introduces us to this observation on life:

“In the modern world, nothing is steadfast,
Nothing to hold on to, years go by so fast,
Need someone to talk to, to slow down the moment,
To help me forgive.”

It’s low, gravelly, it draws you in. I’m reviewing at 11 p.m. on a US East Coast Friday night in the dark, a perfect setting to lose yourself in the music. The strings add beautifully to the guitars in the verse. The transition into the chorus is a perfect step up, fits into the verse like a glove, as he raises the stakes, raises an octave, and makes the song rangy and pleading:

“And I come to the lord,
In my times of trouble,
I can’t find my Jerusalem”

It’s a piece of songwriting comparable in skill to the powerful Sarah Kelly, and to the worldly and remarkable Margo Rey, currently sitting in the Billboard AC at number 28. I’ve always said that you can hear the hard work put into a great song, one that is not only listenable, but a complete sensory experience; it’s not random or fly-by-night, it takes skill and commitment to paint an evocative work of art; and you’ve got a very good example here.

The feet stay firmly on the gas pedal for the second verse, allowing more of a beat, the engine humming, and inviting you to relax into the warmth of the song and the journey within it. The guitars are stronger, the drums are in, and I’m hooked.

“I’ve been so down, Jesus it’s trying,
I wanted to leave life but I’m scared of dying,
Been looking through fresh eyes,
I’m overcoming, demons and loneliness.”

I can hear shades of U2’s Bono and the Edge, the combined guitars taking the wheel and driving us on, and Josh allowing his voice to lead the mood of the song completely as the second verse completes:

“And the years are like rivers rolling over us,
Though my sins are like,
Mountains that can not be crossed,
Oh I know in my soul,
I believe in the blood that will save me now.”

By this time, you’ll be immersed. It’s a Doyle trademark not to insert flashy guitar solos, but instead to use that well-used, well-loved, and well-played guitar to power-chord through an instrumental which, live, allows him to get totally into the moment, and throw himself headlong into the blissful musical void. It’s a wonder he gets through a live show, with the energy that goes into each one. He’s an artist who loves what he’s doing, and totally believes in what he’s singing.  It is refreshing, and is at the same time completely convincing.

Coming down to bare bones again for the final verse, minimal guitar, and that one-of-a-kind tone, listen out for the vocal runs; the whole verse in compelling, but the emotions are are truly beautiful, especially in this line:

“I’ve been looking through fresh eyes,
I’m overcoming demons of loneliness”

Left gloriously hanging on that last sweet note, and wringing the last drops of sweet melancholy out of his guitar, it’s nothing short of a wonderful listening experience.

I have followed Josh Doyle’s work for a long time. As mentioned, his previous band were (primarily due to his unique vocal, emotional songwriting, and driven guitar playing) among my top hits in the 2000’s; with this new work, I’ve found a new favorite, which is remarkable given the strength of the songs this one competes against; in my time, I have covered ‘Army of Two’ and ‘Everything I Do’, and more recently have enjoyed ‘I Figured the World Out’ as a technical and beautiful piece of writing, and single ‘Solarstorms’ as a solid album leader. ‘My Jerusalem’, though, is in a league of its own. Anthemic, evocative, full of emotion, and so very listenable and singable, it is a winner and a work of art with long, long legs.

Josh is, and will always be, a solid ‘recommend’ for me; a nice guy, a hard worker, and a genuinely excellent songwriter and performer.  Buy his album and all of his very latest songs, including ‘My Jerusalem’, right here.

David Mark Smith
Founder and CEO, the Fish Pond
One world, one family, one musical heartbeat
www.globalmusiciansfishpond.com

You can find out more about Josh at his Fish Pond profile here.

You can watch his live performance at the Rutledge, in his home town of Nashville, Tennessee, here:

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