From Newworldson to The Commissionaires

Commissionaires

It’s hard to keep music groups together. Things like marriage, kids, and egos get in the way. Then there’s the “different direction” thing– where one of the band’s members just wants to do something different and the others are like, “Ummm… okay?” And a life of touring instead of staying home can really take its toll on people.

Soul Joel

Joel Parisien made a big splash in the Christian music world through his band Newworldson, but not a big enough splash to be on par with the biggest touring names in Christian music like Casting Crowns or MercyMe. Perhaps it was because his sound and style just didn’t fit the Christian mold that Christian radio and church audiences want. That said, having seen him singing in churches, he brought the house down and his band, Newworldson, were absolutely TOO good for the Christian subculture. They were major league musicians in a minor league setting, and the fit was never quite right.

Newworldson was one of my favorite music groups when it had its original four members. Then the one guy dropped out and moved to Montreal. Then another guy dropped out to spend more time at home with his family, rather than tour the world. Newworldson kind of soldiered on with new musicians, but it just wasn’t the same. They were still soulful and funky and cool, but the new incarnation of Newworldson was better suited to bars and clubs than churches. Fair enough.

So what was Joel Parisien to do? Like any good musician, he had to adapt and find new musical challenges. Fast forward to now: “Soul Joel,” as he’s rightfully called, paired up with Jacob Moon, whom I’d best describe as an adult contemporary, middle-of-the-road Canadian singer. While Moon’s voice isn’t as distinct as Soul Joel’s gritty-yet-smooth rasp, he brings to the table the ability to jump from genre to genre, allowing Parisien to explore music in such a way that he’s having the time of his life.

It can be very stifling to be in a band that’s playing the same 10 songs every concert for years on end. When Jacob Moon and Joel Parisien came together to create a new musical entity called The Commissionaires, they came up with a most novel concept: a spinning wheel at their live concerts.

Now you might be wondering, what’s the deal with a spinning wheel? On it there are different things to have the band play: reggae, Americana (funny, because they’re Canadian, eh?), protest songs, songs of justice, originals, Gospel and 70s soul… speaking of 70s soul, I once asked “Soul Joel” whom he admired most as a singer– you know, his biggest influence… and he replied, quickly, “Donny Hathaway.” Interestingly, Donny was/is one of the soul singers I don’t know much about, but if Joel liked him, then he must have been great.

How would The Commissionaires describe what they do? Well, the phrase “soulful roots outfit” has been said, and I think that’s a fair assessment. The band combines the Gospel of Jesus (the Great Commission) with a missionary zeal to tell the Good News everywhere– even bars, but in a way that’s far from hokey…far from the “safe for the family” Christian radio subculture. Themes of justice and redemption infiltrate their music. Want to buy/hear their EP? You can get a CD or digital download of the EP Shelter Me via their website.

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