Joy is seldom something that can be purchased but this second release from Vancouver’s Sojourners comes close. The combined talents of Ron Small, Will Sanders and Marcus Mosely have the soulful firepower to bring mere mortals to their knees—having witnessed them live—but they’ve succeeded in bringing their distinctive brightness and light to this 11-track gospel love-in, deftly guided by producer and player extraordinaire Steve Dawson.
In his care, their material stays current: traditional numbers like Brother Moses Smote the Water and By and By benefit from Dawson’s rich accompaniment on guitar and lap slide, regardless of tempo. Covering present-day material like Los Lobos’ The Neighbourhood underlines their strengths at reinventing the familiar while their treatment of Franklin Williams’s It’s Hard to Stumble (When You’re On Your Knees) uses pedal steel and B3 to bring their church to the country.
The album’s highlight is, however, their rendition of Rev. Gary Davis’s Death Don’t Have No Mercy. Slow and mournful, the soloist teams with Dawson’s banjo and Hawaiian lap steel to haunting effect as Mike Kalanj’s B3 and the rhythm section of Keith Lowe (bass) and Geoff Hicks (drums) keep things rooted on the ground. There are a few hiccups—the blend of their voices just this side of heavenly on occasion—but this is hardly sinful in the context of the pleasure derived from this uplifting collection. Going to church was never more rewarding.
– By Eric Thom