The Blind Boys of Alabama

The Blind Boys of Alabama

The Blind Boys of Alabama

Spirit of the Century

Omnivore Recordings

Now I’m devoutly undevout- but paradoxically, I occasionally enjoy songs of faith. Be it the stirring sounds of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan singing Qawwali, or Johnny Cash’s many examples of his southern soul, there is such emotion that comes out in their voices that you can’t help but be carried away. But even the most ardent atheist will fall to their knees listening to Spirit of the Century, the 2001 release from the heralded Blind Boys of Alabama. Clarence Fountain, Jimmy Carter, and George Scott have been singing gospel music since they met in 1939 at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind, (Joey Williams joined the group later on vocals and guitar) but it was during the ’80s and ’90s that they crossed over into more mainstream audiences (and began getting Grammy Awards nominations, first for Deep River in 1992) where the group became a staple on roots stages, culminating on Spirit of the Century (Grammy Award winner in 2001), with such distinguished guests such as guitarist John Hammond, harp player Charlie Musselwhite, bassist Danny Thompson, and the maestro himself, David Lindley.

Now this landmark record has been reissued, with 7 additional cuts recorded live at New York City’s The Bottom Line, and rediscovering it has been a joy. Opening with “Jesus Gonna Be Here”, the combination of a powerful singer (in this case Clarence Fountain), coupled with the crème of Americana players (such as Lindley on some stinging slide guitar), it’s a match, well, made in heaven. As is their take on “Amazing Grace”, which is sung to the melody of “House of the Rising Sun”, which definitely takes the old whorehouse anthem to church!

The rest of the record is a tour de force of blues, gospel and funk, including the Season One theme from The Wire, “Way Down In The Hole”, the Tom Waits-penned classic that introduced the group to a younger audience. The backing of the whole record is pitch-perfect, with props to producer John Chelew, who assembled the band and brought a new slant to the gospel of The Blind Boys of Alabama. This is a near perfect union of singers and players, and I challenge anyone not be moved by the “Motherless Child” or “Give A Man A Home” found here. Testify, Blind Boys, testify!

www.omnivorerecordings.com

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Jeremiah Lockwood
    Jeremiah Lockwood

    A Great Miracle: Jeremiah Lockwood’s Guitar Soli Chanukah Album (Reboot). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • Metallica: The $24.95 Book
    Metallica: The $24.95 Book

    From an underground band that pioneered the thrash metal sound, to arguably the biggest rock act in the new millennium, Metallica has had a long and tumultuous history. Ben Apatoff scours a myriad of sources to catalog this history in his new book.

  • Araceli Lemos
    Araceli Lemos

    Shortly after AFI Fest 2021 wrapped, Generoso spoke at length with director, Araceli Lemos about her award-winning and potent feature debut, Holy Emy. Lemos’s film uses elements of body horror in her story about the exoticization of two Filipina sisters living in Greece and how that exploitation creates a distance between them.

  • Southern Accents 55
    Southern Accents 55

    A woofin’ good time with cuts from Hank Williams, Muddy Waters, Delta Moon and more from KMRD 96.9, Madrid, New Mexico!

  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
    Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

    Absurdism with a healthy dose of air conditioning.

  • Mixtape 172 :: My Old Bassist
    Mixtape 172 :: My Old Bassist

    Like pre-teens throwing every liquid into the kitchen blender and daring each other to drink the results, Woody and Jeremy fuse all manner of sounds legitimate and profane into some murky concoction that tastes surprisingly good.

  • Demons/Demons 2
    Demons/Demons 2

    Synapse Films reissues Lamberto Bava’s epic ’80s gore-filled movies Demons and Demons 2 in beautiful new editions.

  • Sylvie Courvoisier and Mary Halvorson
    Sylvie Courvoisier and Mary Halvorson

    Searching for the Disappearing Hour (Pyroclastic Records). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • Payal Kapadia
    Payal Kapadia

    Earlier this year, director Payal Kapadia was awarded the Oeil d’or (Golden Eye) for best documentary at the 74th Cannes Film Festival for her debut feature, A Night of Knowing Nothing. Lily and Generoso interviewed Kapadia about her poignant film, which employs a hybrid-fiction technique to provide a personal view of the student protests that engulfed Indian colleges and universities during the previous decade.

  • Roger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella
    Roger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella

    A classic children’s tale re-imagined by America’s greatest composers.

From the Archives