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The Blind Boys of Alabama
Spirit of the Century
Real World Records

cd cover Formed in 1939 as the Happyland Singers at the Talladega (Alabama) School for the Blind, and first recorded as the Blind Boys in the late 1940s, the group is still headed by founding tenors Clarence Fountain and George Scott, joined by Jimmy Carter and Joey Williams. Spirit of the Century confirms the Boys' enduring claim to the gospel legacy, while revealing an innovative musical spirit worthy of the new millennium.

The instrumental talents of David Lindley (guitar, oud), blues stalwarts John Hammond (guitar) and Charlie Musselwhite (harmonica), along with bassist Danny Thompson and drummer Michael Jerome (singer-songwriter Richard Thompson's rhythm section) combine in a sublime tribute to the venerable harmonists. Included are gospel standards "Motherless Child," "Run on for a Long Time," a startling remake of "Amazing Grace" (to the tune of "St. James Infirmary"), and a church-rocking "Soldier," whose vocal wizardry and resonant oud-guitar-tambourine interplay could raise the quick and the dead. Equally riveting is the Blind Boys of Alabama's contemporary take on the Rolling Stones ("Just Wanna See His Face;" "The Last Time") and Tom Waits ("Jesus Gonna Be Here;" "Way Down in the Hole"). - Michael Stone

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