Five things to know about Freedom Never Dies, by the Sojourners – Vancouver Sun

Freedom Never Dies

The Sojourners |

All opinions on the film and accompanying album aside, there is no denying that Kanye Wests Jesus is King has given gospel music more attention than it usually gets. The Donald Trump-adoring rappers take on the whole Jesus thing appears to be more about his personal relationship to the Lord being better than everyone elses, and trying to sell merchandise. But true gospel music as a genre has its heart in community, caring and civil rights.

The Vancouver-based trio the Sojourners all grew up within the American gospel church tradition. The award-winning groups fourth recording, Freedom Never Dies, begins with a song about famed Florida NAACP activist Harry Moore, and ends with a pledge to Rise Up.

Marcus Mosely (Rails, Tex.), Will Sanders (Alexandria, La.) and Khari Wendell McClelland (Detroit) came together after blues artist Jim Byrnes contacted Mosely to see if he could bring together some singers to perform backup vocals for Byrnes coming album. Everything gelled so well that a new groups career was launched.

From festival stages to church concerts, the Sojourners imbues its music with spirit and passion, and no ego. Here are five things to know about Freedom Never Dies:

1: Freedom Never Dies. No bomb can kill the dreams I hold, for freedom never dies. So declares the opening title track that tells the story of Harry T. Moore and Harriette V.S. Moore, pioneering Florida civil rights leaders and activists who were killed after a bomb was placed under their bedroom floor on Christmas night 1951 exploded. It was the first assassination of any activist to occur during the nascent civil rights movement, but it certainly wouldnt be the last. The song may recount events from 67 years ago, but it could be from a headline today. Either way, the rallying cry of the song keeps being echoed by new generations of fighters.

2: When humming is enough. Great gospel singing is as much about emotional expression as targeted lyrics. The way that Oh Freedom (the classic post-Civil War African-American freedom ballad) opens with nothing more than the group harmonizing with some hmmm-mmm-mmm vocalizing instantly connects to some inner-emotion generator. Its a pure sound, one that the group said that fans wanted to hear more of on the first new recording from the group in five years. We want to hear your voices more! heralds the news release. And did they ever deliver on that request with this EP.

3: Rise Up. The shortest song on the album closes it out with a singalong set to a single bass drum, hand claps and a tambourine as the singers bob-and-weave through a beautifully metered lyric about the gates of the city opening wide and bearing the name of the 12 tribes of Israel. For those looking for the answer to that obvious trivia question, it is: Reuben, Simeon, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Ephraim and Manasseh. The 12 tribes descended all sons or grandsons from Jacob to whom God gave the name Israel. The 12 tribes are described in the Bible and the Quran.

4: Naturalistic production. Every release from the Sojourners has been characterized by great production, but Freedom Never Dies is the best by far. The way that the natural resonance of voices singing in unison is captured on the recording isnt only like being in the room with the trio, its also a perfect introduction to each members unique range. No song delivers this better than Lift Every Voice.

5: Future concerts. To truly appreciate the Sojourners, one has to see them perform. On their own, or with Byrnes, the trio is easily one of the best of its kind on the circuit today. Keep an eye on calendar for upcoming performances.

Also out this week:

The Dreadnoughts

Into the North | Stomp Records

This enduring East Vancouver crew has a proven track record for selling suds from coast-to-coast-to-coast and well beyond. Without doubt, the chant-alongs such as Fire Marengo or joyous jigs such as Harpers Frolic Bonny Kate are the sort of thing to get any crowd in a right fine mood. While the band has held its own in punk rock dives and folk festivals alike, Into the North certainly favours the acoustic folky side of things and the addition of some Quebeois tunes such as Pique La Baleine and Joli Rouge is a nice touch. Anyone covering Stan Rogers timeless Northwest Passage or anything else by the late folky is risky. They do the song justice. Plus, the guys have their own custom cider for this album.

Dec. 14, Astoria Hotel. Tickets and info: $20 at


Secret |

A self-described indie singer-songwriter living near the edge of the ocean, Kaeli crafts immediately familiar electropop that sounds as radio ready as can be. The title track rides along on a shimmering keyboard passage, dropping into echoing chants and layer-upon-layer of orchestration. La La Land chimes in with a bell passage that bounces around your head if youve got headphones on and then gets into a solid skittering dance groove. There are big, hooky choruses in Haunt Me and Round 2, and the chorus in Freedom (feat. Alex Helton) is downright funky. From the incredibly inventive promo kit that the artist provided with her album to sharp earlier videos, Kaeli is very aware of what shes after and Secret shows it.

Moon Duo

Stars are the Light | Sacred Bones

Portland psyche crew Moon Duo moves beyond its obvious Suicide and Spaceman 3 pulsations on its latest album. Instead, Wooden Ships guitarist Ripley Johnson and sonic cohort Sanae Yamada expands its approach to incorporate much mellower terrain. Where all the bands previous work was imbued with more than a dash of eye-of-newt occult weirdness, new songs such as Lost Heads owe as much to 80s electro-disco as any acid vibes. Fall (In Your Love) is almost like a dub mix of something the Pop Group might have done in the 80s and the guitar riffs on Eternal Shore are like some missing avant-garde surf music from the Bay Area noise rock scene of the 90s. All together, it amounts to the most interesting and genuinely psychedelic album from the band to date.

Nov. 27, 9 p.m. Fox Cabaret, 2321 Main St. Tickets and info: $26.63 at


Leaving Meaning | Young God Records

On its 15th studio album, Michael Gira brings in members of Angels of Light, Anna and Maria von Hausswolff, Ben Frost, the Necks, Baby Dee, a Hawk and a Hacksaw and more to craft a dozen new sonic explorations into the recesses of his mind. Easily one of the nicest sounding records the band has released to date, it still manages to deliver the kind of disturbing, compulsive grooves that made earlier records often get described as terrifying. Just check out the droning, hypnotic The Hanging Man or The Nub, with its almost avant-garde jazz tinges. Always loaded with layered percussions, the resulting music made is akin to the chamber pop of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds married to the parts of the Bowery you can never scrape off of your boots once youve stepped in it. Since 1982, Swans and Giras various offshoot groups have all held fast to his dark, claustrophobic lyricism and arranging. And they just keep getting better.

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Five things to know about Freedom Never Dies, by the Sojourners - Vancouver Sun

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