Blind Boys Of Alabama:
Get With The Spirit
They've been singing
gospel music for 61 years and have an impressive list of albums and accolades.
But surprisingly, Go Tell It On The Mountain, the new Blind Boys of Alabama
release on RealWorld Records, is their first Christmas album.
"We just felt
the timing was right for this one," explains original Blind Boys member
Clarence Fountain, speaking from a hotel stop on the group's current tour. "We
love our record company - they've been very nice to us, treated us like we were
somebody. So we didn't mind going into the studio and doing it."
Go Tell It On The Mountain offers a mix of traditional and modern Christmas
tunes, with a lineup of guest stars including Tom Waits, Shelby Lynne, Chrissie
Hynde, Mavis Staples, and Aaron Neville. Fountain credits the album's concept
and song choices to producer John Chelew and RealWorld. "They know everybody
and everybody knows them. They were able to get anybody whom they wanted."
With all these popular vocalists, not to mention top-flight musicians and arrangements
that often rock, will gospel purists find the album too mainstream? "We
tried to stay traditional and not get too far off the track about how the songs
were supposed to go," says Clarence. "We could have had more gospel
flavor if we had been singing all the tracks but mostly we just [added the backgrounds
to] them." Still, the famous Blind Boys harmonies are in evidence on the
album's opener "Last Month of the Year," and the final cut
In regard to the oft-cited similarity of gospel to rock, Fountain observes:
"Rock and roll came from gospel but gospel was here first. Everything else-blues,
rock, jazz - it all springs from gospel. It's gonna be the thing you'll hear
when you get to heaven."
It's been an incredible musical journey for the Blind Boys, whose five original
members indeed met at a school for the blind. After years of singing on the
gospel circuit, they've gained visibility (as well as four newer members). Their
talent has won them Grammy awards, guest stints with other artists (such as
RealWorld label-mate Peter Gabriel on his Up album), and appearances in the
recent films Brother Bear and The Fighting Temptations. They've even
completed their first music video, for "Last Month of The Year." And
success has enabled them to "give back" by donating a percentage of
the royalties from Go Tell It on the Mountain to the American Diabetes
"All the good things have happened to us because we've got the Lord's blessing
on us," says Fountain. While he hopes to continue to work, he admits that
the group's three remaining core members, George Scott, Jimmy Carter, and himself,
are "winding down," as they deal with problems of age and health.
"The older you get the less you want to do these things. But we give it
all our best and when the time comes we'll all go home and sit down and be quiet."
Go Tell It On The Mountain