This is a disc of tracks that the Blind Boys of Alabama have put together mostly from previous recordings with guests, plus three previously unreleased tracks, as well as one new song, Secular Praise, written by Timothy B. Schmit of the Eagles, and a studio version of one that was only available on video on the Blind Boys' Live In New Orleans featuring Marva Wright. Some of the guests are people who might be expected to be performing with this group and others seem to have bounced over a fence into the playing field. All the cuts work, some just much better than others, and it isn't always the ones you think would work. When Lou Reed was seen as one who was participating it had some shaking their heads, and yet he does a job that far exceeded expectations with Jesus, his cut is actually a haunting and chilling highlight, one of his best recordings in years. The other artists range from Toots Hibbert (great), some of the usual suspects turning in great performances, such as Bonnie Raitt, Solomon Burke, and Susan Tedeschi, to the lesser known Jars of Clay (Christian lyrics with acoustic pop alt music), to the Western swing of Asleep At The Wheel.
Just a bit of background, The Blind Boys of Alabama were formed in 1939 at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind; they have been touring since that time. The founding members have all passed on except for Clarence Fountain, who retired in the past year or so due to poor health, but as members have dropped out they have been replaced so the group has continued for these seven decades.
This is an exceedingly varied set of duets, though not in the traditional idea of a "duet," here the Blind Boys vocals are regarded as a single entity, and they are often in the background as supporting vocals. The variety of styles goes from country, to Western swing, rock, reggae, blues, with The Blind Boys all the time adding their gospel touch no matter how secular the song. A very varied set list and an equally varied group of partners lead to a very entertaining set list with something for almost everyone.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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