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Hitting like an atom bomb: RFF 2011 Interviews, Pt. 3

August 22nd, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Sojourners perform at Regina Folk Festival

~ photo courtesy of Colleen Fraser
During the 42nd annual Regina Folk Festival CJTR, Regina’s community radio station, hosted a four hour live program from the heart of Victoria Park. The session included numerous interviews with various performers at the RFF, conducted by myself, Beth Currie (on Twitter @bedheadradio), and Rhonda Nye (who blogs at Indie Insider). We present that audio to you here for posterity and your perusal. Keep checking back, this is just one of many similar features.

Music is in the spirit, regardless of whose spirit it is.

That was part of the message delivered by The Sojourners, a group of gospel singers based in Vancouver. Originally from the United States, all three became Canadian citizens three years ago after adopting the country as their new home. The veteran vocalists were brought together to sing back-ups on an album by blues stalwart Jim Byrnes in 2007, corralled by and including Byrnes’ friend Marcus Moseley. The serendipitous collaboration proved to be heaven-sent and the three became The Sojourners from that day forth.

Moseley, Will Sanders, and Ron Small spent their childhoods singing in church, refining their vocal abilities like countless people possessed of the faith before them. After arriving in the country for those Byrnes sessions, the group has since recorded two albums for Steve Dawson’s Black Hen Records. The recordings encompass a variety of sounds, mostly antiquated. The group is frequently backed up with jazzy double bass, brushed drums, and acoustic, electric, and slide guitar. The tracks are injected with a high degree of soul, frequently recalling the fervor of gospel groups from the 60’s like the Soul Stirrers and The Five Blind Boys Of Alabama. Coming up singing in churches from their youngest years, the group possess incredible strength as individual vocalists and that power grows exponentially when they sing in tandem. They have the kind of chemistry most musicians spend their lives looking for.

During their workshop with Etran Finatawa on Saturday afternoon of the festival you could see people’s heads turning when they began their songs, passers-by drawn to the workshop tent to see who was making such a holy racket (granted, the fiery lead guitar provided by Etran Finatawa’s members probably caught some ears as well). I mentioned their version of The Mississippi Sheiks’ “He Calls That Religion (But I Know He’s Going to Hell When He Dies)” in an earlier post and it was definitely an attention-grabber; it’s lyrical chastising of a philandering preacher and other sordid characters struck me as almost explicit for the day-time audience, regardless of how pious it’s message may have been, especially when factoring in the conviction the group sang it with. To call it jarring is an understatement.

In the interview below, you’ll hear how humble and thankful the three singers really are. It was a genuine treat to get to talk to them, even if I am going to hell when I die.

Purchase The Sojourners records in physical form through Black Hen Music or digitally via iTunes.

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