every day dude steps up and tells you he’s about
putting the stank on Gospel. Specially when said dude
is a former missionary with significant cred in Gospel
music and a founding member of Canada’s premiere
old school Gospel act. But Marcus Mosely is a man
with a mission and a heart full of soul. When he says
the stank is needful, believe it.
mission is to bring Gospel music back into the mainstream.
We’re doing it by emphasising the music, not
the message. We’re putting The Sojourners stank
on because people seem to like it like that”,
says the Texas-born Mosley from his Vancouver crib.
rest of the “we” are Ron Small and Will
Sanders, formerly of Chicago, Illinois and Alexandria,
Louisiana, respectively, and together they makeup
The Sojourners. The trio initially came together four
years ago to do background vocals for blues legend
Jim Byrnes on his Juno winning album, House of Refuge.
The experience was such a big up for all involved
The Sojourners decided to stay together and since
then has enjoyed a dual life as its own group and
as Jim Byrnes backing act.
Eighties Mosely settled in a Vancouver with almost
as many Gospel acts as Moscow.
wasn’t connected at first but as far as I can
recall there was only the one Gospel act called Faces,
which ocassionally did gigs outside of the church
the substantial black population base, which supports
Gospel in cities such as Halifax and Montreal, that
situation wouldn’t change until Vancouver’s
population became more racially mixed.
gotten a little better now, with groups like Gospel
Explosion who regularly do shows for the secular market,
outside the church. For instance, the Yale Hotel,
a well-known blues bar, has an ongoing Gospel show
on Sundays and here are a few other venues which feature
Gospel acts. But I wouldn’t say it has that
big a presence on the music scene in general. The
Sojourners would like to change that.”
wouldn’t be the first Gospel act to try cracking
that toughest of musical nuts but Mosely isn’t
worried as his crew has a solid ace up its collective
was a missionary all over the world for 16 years and
music was a very important part of that. Whether with
words or music, I learnt it was better to communicate
with the uplifting and positive rather than the dire
and gloomy. I took my guitar everywhere I went and
the music I played wasn’t all Gospel. I played
any music that would relate in a positive way."
do this when we take the music into the secular world.
You go into a club, the people are there for a good
time. We figure if an audience gets into the energy
of the music they’re more likely to get or be
open to the inspirational experience. No point in
putting preachy music in front of people who are out
for a good time. The point is communicating and to
communicate you have to speak their language or make
yours relevant to them. We broke out as a vocal trio
and could have gone out purely as a Gospel chorale
act. But putting an electric band instantly makes
the music of interest to a lot more folk.”
of Refuge hit big for Jim Byrnes and took The Sojourners
along with it. They went from gigging on the Left
Coast to European tours and the heat was on to get
them into the studio. The resulting debut, Hold On,
sent word that a new Gospel sound had arrived on the
scene. It scored loads of positive press and garnered
comparisons to classic Southern groups like the Soul
Stirrers, while a killer cover of Curtis Mayfield’s
“People Get Ready”, made the blues heads
Hold On, we were new to the process and it was a little
rushed. We’d just come off a really successful
tour backing Jim and the feeling was that we should
get something out there to cement the identity of
the Sojourners as a stand-alone act. We made the decision
to add a band and get the Sojourner stank in the mix
as part of our identity and as a way of reaching out
beyond the Gospel audience”.
success of “People Get Ready” as a stepping-stone
for the secular was not lost on the boys and mindful
that the Lord helps those who help themselves, the
self-titled new album has two. Both Gary Davis’
‘Death Don’t Have No Mercy’ –
a song long associated with the Grateful Dead and
Los Lobos “Peace in the Neighborhood”,
a tune that references Gospel’s long association
with civil rights and social justice, are given The
Sojourners treatment which involves dabs of doo wop
debut album was about showcasing old school, hardcore
Gospel, which is what we’ve always done. Even
as we were finishing that one, the idea was in place
create a signature sound, which would evolve from
that. I believe we have that signature sound on The
Sojourners. That doesn’t mean we’ll be
standing steady with it. Musically, Sojourners aren’t
about holding the course. The core of the music will
always be hardcore Gospel but I believe evolution
is possible within the genre”.
evolution would be slower going without the right
backing band, so the guys returned to Hold On producer
Steve Dawson, he of the slinky,dirty blues guitar
licks, to put together an appropriate backing unit.
No prize for guessing most of them populated the debut
sessions, including the strollin' backline of Geoff
Hicks and Keith Lowe on drums and bass respectively
and new on board. the vintage soul tones of Mike Kalanj’s
Hammond B3 organ.
love the sound of the Hammond B3. It has a special
attraction, as it’s a big part of the music
I grew up with. Mike (Kalanj) has played in a lot
of blues bands and brought his special touch to the
albums’ 11 tracks speak of sin, love, loss,
redemption and keeping on, and makes travelling those
ancient roads sound fresh and well worth the doing.
“We’re coming from the celebratory side
of Gospel, the uplifting and redemptive, not the preachy
side. It’s known in the Vancouver scene that
we’re not coming from a judgemental place. That
in turn makes the club audience more receptive to
what we’re saying.”
a tad too receptive. Mosely laughingly allows as to
how the guys get hit on in a very secular way from
time to time.
yes, it happens and we handle it by saying Thank you
and bless your heart. Bless your heart can mean a
lot of things and we leave it at that.”
Sojourners drops on Tuesday Jan. 19 and its tunes
will be showcased to an international audience as
the group plays a number of Olympics associated events,
beginning with a gig in Surrey B.C. on Valentine’s
Day. Then in March it’s off to Netherlands to
commune with their large fan base over there, part
of a growing European demand for The Sojourners music.
music has a universal appeal and the message can too,
if you position it correctly. So far as the Sojourner
message, it’s opening up other options to people,
putting out other paths in their life. Its working;
I’ve had people say to me, If music was like
this in church, I’d go every Sunday. They’re
saying that because what they’re hearing isn’t
like what they thought Gospel would be."
chops aside, The Sojourners have a savvy approach
to this career thing. They’re in the tradition
of Al Green and Rev.Gary Davis, dudes who brought
Gospel into the mainstream with far reaching results,
not the least being an influence on many other genres
of music. The Sojourners are carving out a niche sound
at a time when all kinds of rootsy Americana is coming
on strong and they’ve honed in on Gospel as
cultural expression rather than religious edict.
secular covers signify that this is Gospel music with
many a nod to roots musics of all kinds. It’s
a slippery line to walk and as Sojourners seems to
be the only ones strutting it, God bless ‘em
for bringing back Gospel with grit.