August 16, 2017


Blind Boys of Alabama: Almost Home Review (Santi Elijah Holley,  August 15, 2017, Paste)

The original Blind Boys of Alabama came up in the Jim Crow South, having first met at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind. They released their first single in 1948, "I Can See Everybody's Mother but Mine," introducing a new style of "hard gospel" music. The group has persevered through as many changes in musical tastes as musical formats, but the new millennium has been their most commercially and critically successful period, racking up numerous awards and accolades, including five Grammys. Their first album in three years, Almost Home comes after a run of collaborative albums with Ben Harper, Taj Mahal, and Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, which blended the religious with the secular to attract a different (read: younger) audience. This new album, however, isn't out to gain new converts; it is a parting gift to the faithful.

Drawing largely from extensive interviews with Fountain and Carter, the 12 songs on Almost Home were penned by multiple songwriters, including Ruthie Foster, Cris Jacobs, Valerie June and Phil Cook. Though written by other hands, the songs selected for this album sound distinctly, and often grievously, autobiographical. The title track, "Stay on the Gospel Side," written by Marc Cohn and John Leventhal, was based on Fountain's reminisces about suffering mistreatment as a youth at the school for the blind, before finding salvation through gospel music.

Once one of the world's greatest gospel shouters, Fountain--now lacking the strength to sing lead--has other longtime band member Ben Moore step in: "Well, my work is done, and I'm finally going home to see my maker / Nothing scares me in this world no more, not the devil or the undertaker," Moore sings. "I'll finally see my father's face / Hold my mother close, and feel her grace."

Posted by at August 16, 2017 1:14 PM