The Blind Boys of Alabama
Go Tell It On The Mountain
Some artists deliver a Christmas album quite quickly after debuting on the scene.
Others take a bit longer like The Blind Boys of Alabama, who are offering their first yuletide project in their sixtieth year of existence. It’s not for lack of enthusiasm for the season, however. From the energy and joy the legendary group pours into the project, that much is quite clear.
With Go Tell It On The Mountain, the award-winning veterans have made it a party, of sorts, inviting an impressively eclectic collection of guest artists (some of them perhaps surprising) to join them in song. Like their recent Grammy-winning past couple albums, this one is also produced in wonderful vintage, organic, rootsy style, by John Chelew, for Real World Records.
The boys start things off right with one of the most infectious and underplayed Christmas cuts of all time "Last Month of The Year". They impart their degree of contagion to the old spiritual chestnut, just as you hope they might.
Lead singer Clarence Fountain joins with Mavis Staples on a rousing “Born In Bethlehem”, another redo of a great old spiritual that gets postively raucous in flava, with Staples and Fountain trading bouncy leads over juicy Hammond B3 and bass parts.
“Away In A Manger” brings in George Clinton in a bluesy rendition that also features pedal steel guitar phenom, Robert Randolph. Then on the Harry Connick Jr. song “I Pray On Christmas”, versatile R&B/preacher legend Solomon Burke joins the Blind Boys.
Also on the project are Tom Waits who injects a heavy dose of grit on the minor key title track, and Me’shell Ndegeocello gets away with minimal and muted spoken commentary on “O Come All Ye Faithful”, over simple piano and Blind Boys’ harmonizing.
Les McCann, Aaron Neville, Michael Franti, Chrissie Hynde, Richard Thompson and Shelby Lynne are others included as guests on this Grammy-nominated disc.
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album release date: September, 2003
Real World Records / EMI Gospel
review by Stan North —
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