BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA TAKE THE HIGH ROAD
aaamusic | On 23, Jun 2011
Five-time Grammy Award and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winners The Blind Boys of Alabama will release Take The High Road (Proper Records) on 9th May, the first traditional country-gospel album of their 70-year career. The album is co-produced by Jamey Johnson, one of country music’s most acclaimed and compelling artists, who also performs on it along with Vince Gill, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr., Lee Ann Womack, and The Oak Ridge Boys, backed by an A-list of top Nashville studio musicians. The result is a stunning, powerful testament to the deep, historic relationship between country and gospel music.
“There wasn’t one person who didn’t bawl like a baby or bust their heart open at least once,” Johnson recounted to the New York Times recently, remarking on the intensity of the recording sessions. “It’s been a dream of mine to do a country gospel album and we couldn’t have found a better partner than Jamey” said Jimmy Carter, the last original Blind Boy still touring with the band.
The concept for the collaboration started with original Blind Boy Jimmy Carter’s longstanding love of country music and his desire to do a traditional country-tinged gospel album. Last year, his idea started to take shape when the Blind Boys were asked to curate a series of shows at the prestigious Lincoln Center Festival, which included country artists such as Ralph Stanley, Ray Benson (Asleep At The Wheel) and Allison Moorer. Soon afterwards they met Jamey Johnson and asked him to join them in singing Down By The Riverside at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Their mutual respect and shared passion for old-time gospel music made for a powerful performance, and that magical moment led to the Blind Boys asking Jamey to produce their next CD.
The band had already been planning to make a country record with their Grammy-winning production collaborator Chris Goldsmith, who had enlisted the help of veteran Nashville drummer Chad Cromwell (Neil Young, Mark Knopfler). Jamey then brought in bassist Kevin ‘Swine’ Grantt (Brad Paisley, Daryl Worley) and additional top-notch Music City players, including legends such as guitarist Reggie Young, to join them in the studio. A fantastic array of guest vocalists – Vince Gill, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr, Lee Ann Womack and The Oak Ridge Boys – added to the recording sessions while new friendships were quickly formed and soulful sounds were crafted out of a shared love of authentic spiritual music.
The result is a remarkable album, which mines the profound connections between traditional country and gospel music. The amazing spirit and soul of the Blind Boys is celebrated through the songs; some time-tested like Hank Jr.’s energetic re-working of his father’s I Saw The Light, and some more recent gems like Danny Flower’s underground classic I Was A Burden. Recorded live in just a few days at Ben Folds’ Javelina Studio, the album has the soulful feel of an old-school country classic while still following in the renowned Blind Boys tradition of reaching across musical boundaries to collaborate with other artists (from Peter Gabriel and Lou Reed to Anthony Hamilton, Ben Harper and Third Day) to create music that is appreciated as heart-warming, innovative, and inspirational by people from all walks of life.