THE BLIND CAN SEE…The Blind Boys of Alabama: Spirit of the Century, Higher Ground

The Blind Boys of Alabama have been around since the 30s, but they got a resurgence of popularity about 15 years ago. These two albums come from that Reformation, and they are essentials for anyone wanting to understand the soulful roots of American music.
The 2000 Spirit of the Century include the vocals of Clarence Fountain, Jimmy Carter, George Scott and Joey Williams, while guests include John Hammond/b, David Lindley/g, Charles Musselwhite/harp and Danny Thompson/b. The original twelve tracks include a haunting roll of “No More” which will make you stay on the right path, and an “Amazing Grace” that has the vocals harmonize over the melody of “House of the Rising Son.” They throw in some tunes by Mick Jagger and Tom Waits that can be used as sermonettes, and they work seamlessly. Seven bonus tracks have the group recording at the Bottom Line in NYC in 2001, and they get the place rolling with “Good Religion” and “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” Better Git it in Yo’ Soul!
Real World from 2002 follows the same format, with the original album including Ben Harper’s voice and guitar on a passionate “People Get Ready” and some rich guitar on a clever take of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.” These guys are adept at taking “secular” songs and bringing back home; Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross” finally makes sense as the band brings you through the Jordan, and Prince’s “The Cross” is simply overwhelming. They close with a take of the iconic “Precious Lord” that will even quake the most devout atheist. Seven songs from a KCRW broadcast capture the Sunday Morning feel of the band, with a riveting “Wade in the Water.” Do they still do worship services? Our church could use some help!

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