March 26, 2010 Volume 24, Number 01
Newworldson: bright, bold and captivating
By D.S. Martin | ChristianWeek Columnist
They're back! If you've heard the CD Salvation Station (2008) from Newworldson, then you already know why I've been looking forward to this one. The band's musical scope has stretched, yet it still strikes me as gospel party music. Sometimes it's more commercial, pulling back a little from the roots sound of their last album, although echoes of the Caribbean come through on several tracks.
Instrumentally, I find this quartet constantly grabbing my focuspulling it this way and that. Each player is strong, and they play together well. Rich Moore plays stand-up bass, Mark Rogers drums, Josh Toal plays guitar and frontman Joel Parisien plays keyboard.
"You Set The Rhythm," the opening track on their new self-titled album, is as good a place as any to observe their individual strengths. Moore lays down a memorable bass riff for the verses. The other band members' contributions fit right in. Toal's guitar skips across the surface and Joel's organ bounces, not unlike the best of Ray Manzarek of The Doors. To top it off, Rogers is a very impressive drummer.
As they sing of love, I sense a broader context than for most songs on the subject, even from Christian songwriters. This is undoubtedly gospel music. "In Your Arms" could be a song of ongoing love between a man and woman, and also a love song to the Lord.
"Don't let 'em change your mind
And, yet, the gospel context of Newworldson is always clearso when Parisien does his best Jerry Lee Lewis piano and Toal mimics Chuck Berry, even the most secular listener knows where they're coming from.
When you start listening to the single, "There Is A Way," you might think it's just another one of those songs about love. As the song progresses, the more closely you listen, the clearer the message becomes. The choruswith the soulful contribution of Toronto Mass Choirnails home "The Truth and The Life and The Way."
Many tracks make no attempt to hide their musical influences. "Listen To The Lord," and "Total Eclipse" are built upon a reggae rhythm reminiscent of The Police; "In Your Arms" could slip seamlessly into the playlist of an oldies station and the mellow "O Lament" has a Mexican flavour. Despite this, Newworldson have their own sound, one that isn't derivative of anything I know of in the secular music biz.
This new eponymous album holds up well. Its weaker moments are in "Jamaican Praise Medley," with its artificially-imposed island accent and "That's Exactly (How I Like It)." The latter has great Hendrix-style licks but was written within an hour as a challenge by a Dutch radio station; lyrically it shows.
I appreciate Newworldson's diversity, ranging from mellow ballads to jumping crowd-pleasers, with solid vocals from Parisien and rich harmonies throughout.
These boys from Niagara have come a long way in a short time, playing secular and Christian festivals in Europe, Australia and closer to home, being nominated twice for the Junos and winning the Covenant Award in 2009 for group of the year. Newworldson is a great example of how Christian music can be bold with its message and still find a wider audience. I highly recommend both Salvation Station and this new CD.
D.S. Martin is the author of the poetry collection, Poiema (Wipf & Stock, 2008), available at www.dsmartin.ca.
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