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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisLongevity is essentially the holy grail of the music industry, and considering so many acts are here today and gone tomorrow, The Blind Boys of Alabama's six-plus decade run is nothing short of a miracle. Sure, the membership has changed several times (and unfortunately found the passing of several original singers), but veteran Jimmy Carter continues to lead the charge on tour (despite sitting out sick this particular date) with the full blessing of soul surviving founder Clarence Fountain.
No matter who's in the line-up, the soulful troupe mined through an extensive catalogue of blues standards, spirituals and cleverly arranged covers that served as the ultimate pairing with The Venue's gospel brunch (which could give the House of Blues a definite run for its money). Early examples of the group's Sunday-centered sounds included "Down By the Riverside" and "Amazing Grace" (to the beat of "House of the Rising Sun"), but because they never came across as preachy, the group's joy had no trouble translating to audiences from any belief background.
In fact, much of what makes The Blind Boys of Alabama such a universal favorite is the way the vocalists interpret uplifting classics from all eras with heavenly harmonies, putting their signature stamps on everything from The Impressions' "People Get Ready" to Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit In the Sky." No wonder there's always a lengthy list of collaborators in line to record with the legends, including recent partnerships with Ben Harper, Lou Reed, Bonnie Raitt and Randy Travis (to name but a few that found their way onto 2009's Duets compilation).
Even though the set took several trips down memory lane, The Blind Boys remain a steady force in the recording studio and turned in tunes from the new Take the High Road (Saguaro Road Records). The album, along with showcased songs like "I Know a Place" and "I Saw the Light," illustrated the links between gospel music and classic country, adding yet another example of genre mastery in the group's annals. While it would be natural to assume retirement might be right around the corner, there were no signs of age in this resplendent show that served to build upon a legacy that only escalates with time.
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