Sojourner is one of my favourite words; it simply means someone staying somewhere temporarily, but it has a rich and tumultuous history to it in connection with slavery of the 18th and 19th century. One of the greatest abolishionists, who took on the term as a permanent name was Sojourner Truth, whose landmark address ‘Ain’t I A Woman?’ turned many a head as a woman and former slave had spoken out to the extent she had previously. So a gospel group adapting the term ‘Sojourner’ as their musical name is a delicious statement and homage to ancestry.
From the ‘get-go’ you see The Sojourners have dug so deep into their spiritual roots that they have ended up on the other side of the continent; all the way from Vancouver to the ‘deep south’ where Gospel was born, to be specific. Hold On is their debut album, but all three members Ron Small, Will Sanders, and Marcus Mosely have had extensive careers within the realm of music and particularly gospel music as they are members of The Good Noise Vancouver Gospel Choir. These guys are as authentic as the well-worn pews and well-used Bibles stationed in any Church welcoming the sounds of Gospel songs. Rich and textured voices that harmonize along a rolling sea of sound waves; The Sojourners take you on a gentle walk down the back alleys and pathways of the soul and have you cathartically ending up on the other side.
Songs like ‘Children Go Where I Send Thee,’ and ‘Old Ship Of Zion’ are masterfully constructed as if they had been sung in a Gospel choir for centuries, even though all the songs are original of The Sojourners on Hold On. ‘People Get Ready’ has remnants of Motown within its harmonies while songs like ‘Eyes On The Prize’ draw in a blues influence. The Sojourners are a mature group of performers, singing mature songs, for possibly an older audience; although I find that pigeon-hole a little too small for their sound as songs like ‘Clean Up’ could have easily slipped into an R&B sound and particularly in regard to lyrics and melody. Perhaps venturing towards more of an R&B sound might be something The Sojourners might explore in the future, but for now you can be guaranteed a solid debut collection of songs that will be as sweet as the bread and wine of communion.
-Kindah Mardam Bey