The Blind Boys of Alabama
Spirit of the Century
You canít often claim a trend based on two CDs, but weíll go out on a limb and do just that on the strength of a couple recent projects, including this one from The Blind Boys of Alabama, roots Gospel is experiencing an all-out revival.Producer: John Chewlew
album release date: April 24, 2001
The Blind Boys of Alabama have origins that stretch back to 1939, and an authenticity of sound more timeless than that even.
With the irrepressible Clarence Fountain on lead, the group was recruited for an album by famed producer John Chelew, and joined with a blues/roots allstar crew that includes names more familiar to blues/roots audiences than Gospel: Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica, Danny Thompson on upright bass, John Hammond on guitar, Michael Jerome on drums and David Lindley on other stuff.
The result is Spirit of the Century. When you combine this information with the fact that the album is on Peter Gabrielís Real World label and that several of the featured tunes are Gospel versions of non-Gospel hits from sources as diverse as Tom Waits and The Rolling Stones, and you canít be faulted with raising an eyebrow of doubt as to the Gospel legitimacy of the project.
But tremendous credit must be given to the Blind Boys, for not only do they have the musical depth and resiliency to bring home their true sounds, they also saturate the entire recorded set with a severe vocal sincerity and a no-doubt about it tone that itís all about Jesus Christ.
MORE ROOTS GOSPEL
Formerly with a Gospel project back in 1993 on Real World, The Holmes Brothers have delivered another Gospel roots gem in Speaking In Tongues. Laying down further evidence documenting a Gospel roots revival, you can check out his album by clicking the image above.
Chelewís insistence on abandoning the currently popular multi-track vocal studio session in favor of a "címon letís gather round the mic and record this song" approach, pays off big-time, as the sonic atmosphere from start to finish is so real as to fully immerse you in it all.
Highlights are the rolling and rousing version of "Run On For A Long Time", and Ben Harperís "Give A Man a Home", with Fountainís tour-de-force of grit and fabulously rounded harmonies from the others.
"Amazing Grace" propels itself to the top of the twelve tracks by the fact that the melody is not the familiar Newton tune, but rather the catchy "House of the Rising Sun", which makes for a refreshing ride.
With other inclusions such as "Motherless Child", "The Last Time" and "Good Religion" riding the flow of raw music, deep soul, Delta blues feel, sparsely cut tracks and frequent acappella detours, Spirit of the Century has a wide appeal that should attract bountiful interest from various musical quarters.
Deservedly so. But let's not forget that the Blind Boys of Alabama have remained true to their calling through it all.
Real World Records
reviewed by Stan North ó
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