RCA Inspiration / Life Room (release date: February 18, 2022)
By Robert M. Marovich
An extension of DOE’s self-titled 2001 EP, Clarity has the gentle, intimate vibe associated with the Grammy-nominated songwriter and former lead singer of forever JONES. But if the grooves are dreamy and some songs gush with gratitude, others are earnest expressions of vulnerability and imperfection. All point to God as the mooring in a complex world.
For example, on “When I Pray,” DOE sings everyone’s quiet part out loud: “I’m not very eloquent in speech / I don’t always know how to sound holy when I speak.” But, she adds, she can get a prayer through because God, ever constant, doesn’t stand on ceremony.
Songs toggle between a smiling look at life (“Good Now” and “So Good”) and the challenges of being a public persona in an era when every move is captured on YouTube. “Give the people what they want or I’mma catch hell.” she bemoans on “I Try,” originally released on the EP. A young veteran of the spotlight, DOE concludes “performance can’t buy you love” but doesn’t mean she’s not going to do her best.
Other carryovers from the EP include the single “Brighter,” an effervescent love song to the Lord; and “Hey You,” DOE’s duet with Jonathan McReynolds, her musical doppelganger.
Among the new songs, the title track is DOE at her most vocally soulful, punctuating the melody line with soaring high notes. She continues to explore the higher reaches of her range during “Mercy,” all the while offering plaudits to the Most High. The Holy Spirit-invoking “What I’m Waiting For” combines the dramatic theatricality of Hillsong United with a Lady Gaga-like expansive vocal line. Like “Brighter,” “Undoing” is a song of loving praise.
DOE’s guitar and keyboard work dominate the album’s minimalist production, which accentuates the intimacy of the music. The melodies are buoyant and approachable, sweet but not too sugary. And as on the EP, “Take Me Back,” with its yearning for an emotionally simpler time, is still the top track.
DOE could easily become a neo-soul artist, but she sticks with gospel and the genre is all the better for it.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “Take Me Back,” “Clarity”