I found out about Joel through the new Unsigned Band Compilation from Velvet Blue Music. Joel‘s disc ranges from rock/pop to acoustic folk music to alt-country. As an artist, Joel has the feel of a very personal writer who seems like he is just sitting in your living room telling story songs. Topically, his songs cover mercy, Johnny Cash, love, and Christ’s grace for the world. There is a definite Christian component to Joel‘s songs, but he is not cliché nor does he confine himself to his religious beliefs.
The demo begins with an up-tempo, guitar driven, rock/pop track called “Wiretap”. Joel‘s voice really shines on this track. What is striking most about this track is the bridge. When the band slows down the track, Joel slips into a Love and Rockets feel. For me, this glimpse into a more Love and Rockets type vocal style was the highlight of the album. Although I find this track to be one of the strongest on the disc, I think that it is too lengthy. I would have liked to have had the song end about a minute early. Tighten up the song and cut off some of the extras.
“These Streets are Haunted and Going Rate” are two of the more serious tracks on the disc. Haunted is a slow tempo rock song expounding the need for mercy on the hard streets of our cities. Here, Christ is the center of the song. This is a Eubanksesque piece akin to tracks found on West Coast Politics/East Coast Love. Going Rate is an acoustic song that can also be found on the New Land Compilation from Velvet Blue Music. In my humble opinion, Joel shines when all else is stripped away and he is left with just an acoustic guitar. At times I wished the whole album was like this. This is not to knock his band, but Joel’s strength is his personal touch with the listener. Perhaps an acoustic tour should be in the making.
His tribute to Johnny Cash is poignant, well timed, and light hearted, just like the man himself would probably want. He throws a twang into his vocals and sings of wanting to be with his significant other while listening to the Man in Black on his car stereo. It’s a fun country song that lightens the album’s more serious side. “Coming in Last” is a Dylanesque track. With my limited knowledge of Bob Dylan‘s work, it is hard for me to say whether or not this is a cover tune. Once again, Joel is alone with the acoustic guitar and once again shines.
This is definitely a disc that calls the listener back to the roots of what we call rock-and-roll. For Joel and his listener, it is obvious that R&R can’t be dead because Joel brings the rock to the table in a solid release. His diversity of influences and strength in song writing make this disc a demonstration of Joel’s depth in song writing.