Spirit Of The Century (Expanded CD Reissue)
Blind Boys Of Alabama
Review by David Bowling
The Blind Boys Of Alabama were formed at Talladega Institute For The Blind in 1944. Their blend of gospel and blues made them stars on the gospel and rhythm & blues circuit during the 1940’s and 1950’s. During the 1960’s they gradually broke through into the mainstream and continue to record and tour down to the present day.
Spirit Of The Century was originally released in 2001. It has now been remastered and issued with seven live bonus tracks.
When they recorded the album, there were still three original members with the group. Jimmy Carter, George Scott, and Clarence Fountain were in their 57th year of membership. They usually toured with four singers and four backing musicians but here it is an all-star team with guitarist David Lindley and John Hammond plus harpist Charlie Musselwhite leading support.
The Blind Boys Of Alabama are basically a gospel group whose vocals tend to move toward the blues. They are an example of where the blues and gospel intersect.
Their repertoire is mostly traditional gospel songs and hymns but there are some surprise additions along the way. “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” “Good Religion,” and “Motherless Child” come to life through their intricate harmonies. “Amazing Grace” is taken in a very creative direction as the words are sung to the music of “House of The Rising Sun.”
They also take some modern tunes and move them in a gospel direction. The Rolling Stones “”I Just Wanna See His Face” and Tom Waits “Way Down In The Hole” and “Just Wanna Be Here” are not just covered but transformed.
The seven live tracks, all from the album, were recorded at the Bottom Line during 2001. Songs such as “The Last Time,” “”Motherless Child,” and “No More” provide a nice counterpoint to their studio counter parts.
Spirit Of The Century is gospel music for the new millennium. It is a sound deeply connected to American culture and well-worth exploring.