Not to be outdone by Black Friday, Thanksgiving, or the month of November, Christmas ekes its way into our lives earlier and earlier each year. With Christmas comes an inevitable bevy of gospel and soul hits buttoning itself into yuletide Gap commercials or Starbucks playlists- must be connected with the weather. Still, hailing from the great, white north comes another type of groove, soul, and gospel to ring in the season and out our scroogenesq cynicism: Newworldson.
Taking cues from luminaries like Ray Charles, Sam and Dave, and Aretha Franklin, this group of, let it be known, Christian rockers have been making waves since 2007. The release of Roots Revolution garnered the band a Best New Artist and Roots/Folk Album of the Year at the Gospel Music Awards in Canada and later nomination for a 2008 Juno Best Christian/Gospel Album of the Year. The band, singer Joel Parisien, guitarist Josh Toal, bassist Rich Moore, and drummer Mark Rogers, started out by playing in bars. “We weren’t playing for predominantly Christians in Christian settings, we were performing for regular people…whether they were believers or not made no difference” says Parisien. It wasn’t long before their mix of religious inspired tunes attracted calls from the Christian music industry; and Newworldson joined label, In Pop. Though they were still playing the same mix of gospel and secular songs live, after signing with a predominantly Christian label, the band was accused of using their music for religious outreach, “because we were sort of getting clothed, or painted with a Christian veneer, it turned off some of our non-Christian fans” says Parisien.
Newworldson makes no fuss about their ties to Christianity, however. “I have to read the lyrics three or four times before I get what the singer is trying to say” says Parisien on the lyrics of other Christian artists, “we make our message extremely clear.” But the band doesn’t proselytize in their songs, most references to God, spirituality, or Christianity is of a self-reflexive manner. “I am a working man, I get things done, work for the Holy Ghost, work for the son” sings Parisien in hit “Working Man” from their latest album.
“As I matured as a musician, this was the language I spoke the most fluently,” Parisien says of gospel music, “there are things that bring us joy, and things that bring us pain, and events in our life that make us question…you never know when inspiration’s gonna hit.” Inspiration has taken form in the band’s latest album Salvation Station. Recorded live off the floor, and without the use of click tracks, metronomes, or headphones, the band captures the spontaneity, essence, and energy of good fashioned funk- regardless of creed. They plan to tour come February 2010. “We are on a Christian label and we are Christians. [But] we sound nothing like any contemporary Christian music.” With the season of religious holidays making its way with full force upon us, how do you reconcile the religious with the secular in a PC friendly manner? “I like the effect gospel music has on people…[it] speaks a lot of truth in people’s lives…makes people feel better” says Parisien. God bless us, everyone.