Down In New Orleans
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The Blind Boys of Alabama, who originally formed back in 1939, have had an amazing seven-decade career, one that has seen them release their own brand of gospel on every possible medium the history of recording has to offer, from 78s and LPs to eight-track tapes, cassettes, and CDs, and the consistency of their sound and approach through all of this makes them a venerable national treasure. What's even more telling is that their newest album, the Chris Goldsmith-produced Down in New Orleans, is one of the best the Blind Boys have ever done. Led by original member Jimmy Carter, whose raspy voice has aged into an expressive, earthy delight, the Blind Boys take a Crescent City route here, working with veteran New Orleans musicians like the legendary Allen Toussaint and a solid, push-and-pull rhythm section of David Torkanowski (piano), Roland Guerin (bass), and Shannon Powell (drums) with help from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Hot 8 Brass Band. The result has a joyous, lightly funky feel that reaches back into the long history of traditional Southern gospel even as it updates that tradition with some well-chosen and spiritually compatible secular material. The opener, a version of the old chestnut "Free at Last," swings in exactly the right way, emerging as a lightly funky reaffirmation of everything the Blind Boys have always stood for, and truthfully, everything here has that tone and feel, even though the group tackles a wide variety of songs, including Earl King's "Make a Better World," a pair of songs associated with the great Mahalia Jackson, "If I Could Help Somebody" (featuring Toussaint on piano) and "How I Got Over," country crooner Jim Reeves' "Across the Bridge," and Curtis Mayfield's "A Prayer." Given that New Orleans soulfulness that Crescent City musicians seem to deliver as easily as drawing breath, Down in New Orleans is a sheer delight, uplifting and funky and full of a rare kind of joy. One could say welcome back Blind Boys of Alabama, but these guys have been doing this all along, and that they can deliver one of their best albums 70-some years into their career is nothing short of amazing. Better to burn out than fade away? Don't tell these guys that. They're a testament to the fact that you don't need to do either of those things. You can instead just go out and make great music over and over again.
Formed: 1937 in Talladega, AL
Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s
Top Albums and Songs by The Blind Boys of Alabama
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||Amazing Grace (Live)||Down In New Orleans||5:28||$0.99||View In iTunes|
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||Go Tell It On The Mountain||Go Tell It On The Mountain||3:57||$0.99||View In iTunes|