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Music Review: The Sojourners – Eponymous

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Most singers today adopt their style of singing to fit the image they want to convey. The Sojourners, however, are authentic with honest, rural church singing as a common background. Additionally, one of them has some early time singing in a professional group while in the U.S. Air Force, which netted the group, all USAF members, an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, one of the top-rated shows on television in its time.

The Sullivan Show is where another group you may have heard of, the Beatles, made their first U.S. television appearance. Another member of the group has done considerable time as a missionary, and has appeared in a number of live stage productions. You can’t get much more original and polished than that.

While the group, consisting of Marcus Mosely, Will Sanders, and Ron Small, is not well-known in the U.S. outside of gospel circles, the recent resurgence of the popularity of gospel music in the secular world should give The Sojourners ample opportunity to claim their share. Their consummate professionalism shows through immediately from the first cut, “Nobody Can Turn Me Around,” which is instantly evocative of another highly successful gospel group, the Soul Stirrers, where Sam Cooke got his start.

Also, be sure to listen for soul legend Curtis Mayfield’s touches on several of the cuts. Neither he nor his group, the Impressions, are in evidence, but certain voicings and phrasing bring them immediately to mind, particularly on “When I Die.” Both of these groups' skillful blending of soul, blues, and gospel made them hugely successful in their day, and the Sojourners’ are great candidates to emulate them.

The guitar is understated throughout the disc, but it should not be ignored; there’s some decidedly masterful ‘dirty’ guitar work by Steve Dawson. The Hammond B-3 is put through its paces by Mike Kalanj, while the rhythm section of Keith Lowe on bass and Geoff Hicks on drums round out an exemplary complementary supporting cast. All three of the group’s primary members rotate in and out of lead vocal duties, all with perfectly professional performances. The harmonies are absolutely perfect. And the haunting “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” a Reverend Gary Davis staple, will stick with you long after the last note fades. Try not to think of the Grateful Dead when you hear it. You won’t do it.

If you’re a gospel fan, don’t miss this release. And if you’re curious about gospel, but don’t know where to start, here’s a perfect opportunity to test the waters. Go ‘head, stick a toe in! You’ll not regret it. There’s nothing new here, although I’d bet there are several you’ve not heard before.

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About Lou Novacheck