Written by: Jay Heilman (6/25/2020)
In the 16 years I have worked in the Christian music industry, I can only think of a handful of female vocalists in the rock genre who can truly carry the torch with such finesse and ferocity while at the same time, giving the guys a run for their money. Lacey Sturm (Flyleaf), Dawn Michele (Fireflight), Paige Armstrong-Omartian are among my favorites from the genre who over the years have shown that there are truly some amazing “chick rockers” out there waiving the banner for Christ while leading the masses with their rock fists raised high.
Enter newcomer to the Christian rock scene, Jodi Essex. The California native-turned Chicago transplant is the newest to join the group of elite female rockers. With influences like female rock legend Pat Benatar (who for some crazy reason is NOT in the RORHOF!), to the early 90’s Seattle music scene and even the classics of Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix, it’s pretty apparent from Jodi’s new record Irreverent that she’s here for the long run with her endearing, yet commanding vocals and of course the onslaught of guitar shredding that’s laced throughout the nearly 45 minute set.
The record opens with the melodic anthem “Stand Up” – reminding listeners that no matter what they’re going through in life, there is a God that is there for them every step of the way and will never leave nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6)
“Soar” encourages our dependence on God and that our plans are not always His, but, if we can truly rely on Him and the plans He has for our lives, doors open and can take us to places we can only dream of. “Gotta wait upon the Lord / Watch Him open every door / Fly you higher than before / On His wings, We’ll soar”. Musically, loved the slowed down verse and pre-chorus guitars that eventually lead into a Tremonti-like guitar solo towards the end.
The title track “Irreverent” in my opinion is one that truly challenges us as believers and how we carry the name of Christ to a lost and dying world. We can say we love Jesus and want people to know Him all we want, but at times our approach and reaction to what’s going on around us can sometimes bring ‘disrespect’ (although maybe unintentionally) to the Savior in a way that can be detrimental to the spreading of the Gospel. Let us be challenged to rise above and instead be reverent in addition to obedient to the call of Christ.
“Symphony” is another great reminder of knowing that God is always here, whether we think so or not. It’s peaceful to me of just taking time to sit back and allow the words of Jesus to lead and guide. Although we will encounter stormy paths in life that make it difficult to see what’s ahead, His voice can always be heard if we just stop and listen.
We were never meant to take on life’s battles alone. “Fighter” definitely reminds us of that. We are to put on the full armor of God (as mentioned in Ephesians 6:10-18) which will not only protect us against the wiles of the world but guarantee us victory in the end. Musically “Fighter” is one of my favorites on the record, with its fast-paced assault of guitars.
I was surprised and very happy to see a cover of Amy Grant’s “Alright” (from her 1988 Lead Me On) which also happens to be one of my favorite songs from 80’s Christian music. Jodi’s including of this song shows the absolute power of music and that even a song released over thirty years ago can still have a huge impact today, reminding us in this time of uncertainty that “You tell me that it’s all right / You give me what I need”. It’s quite simple yet comforting.
The closing track “Rearview Mirror” is perhaps my favorite song on the record and really a great way to close it out. Like the verse in the earlier track “Weightless” proclaiming “My past is dead and gone”, “Rearview Mirror” reminds us not to live in our pasts, but rather keep our eyes forward and onto the path that God has set before us – whatever and wherever that may be. Sometimes we just need a reminder – the past is just that – the past. As I sit here and write this review, I am reminded of that choice I made to leave my past in the ‘rear-view’ in the summer of 2003 and keep my focus instead on Jesus and not look back. Best decision I ever made.
Irreverent is truly a breath of fresh air and goes a long way in showing listeners that not only is rock music still alive and well, but the Rock of our lives still desires to connect with us despite the chaos surrounding us in this lost and broken world. While Jodi Essex may not be a household name (yet), the message of hope, love and reliance on God that Irreverent carries is sure to gain attention and not only highlight her immense talent, but her heart of wanting to reach the lost with the Gospel through her music and to let people know that Jesus is alive and well and is there for those who choose to seek Him.
INTERVIEW W/ JODI ESSEX (June 26, 2020)