The Blind Boys of Alabama (from the album Spirit of the Century on Omnivore Recordings) - Gospel music gave birth to multiple forms of secular music in the early days of rock’n’roll. Southern Gospel remains the template for The Blind Boys of Alabamaon the Omnivore re-issue of Spirit of the Century. The Grammy winning album came sixty years into a musical career for The Blind Boys and presents the sounds borrowed from Gospel in real time, repurposed as Spirit of the Century offers the down and dirty Blues grooves of Tom Waits’ “Jesus Gonna Be Here”), Soul on Ben Harper’s “Give a Man a Home”, and tracks from tradition backed with Folk (“Nobody's Fault But Mine”), and late night Blue Jazz (“Motherless Child”). The album has an edge, an excitement to the songs that translates a universal language of belief, summed up in the band’s goal since they started singing together to ‘spiritually uplift audiences’.
The Blind Boys of Alabama met in a 1944 high school glee club, becoming a gospel outfit and touring the southern Gospel circuit by 1945. A New Jersey promoter took the band to New York for a gospel sing-off with similar blind vocal group from Mississippi, billed as the “Battle of the Blind Boys’. The groups became friends, both adopting The Blind Boys for their respective states. The Five Blind Boys of Alabama released their first single, “I Can See Everybody’s Mother But Mine” (Vee-Jay Records) in 1948. Their first Grammy came in 2001 with the release of Spirit of the Century. The Five Blind Boys are backed with a studio band that includes David Lindley,John Hammond, Danny Thompson, andCharlie Musselwhite with the Omnivore re-issue offering nine unreleased cuts with the studio band playing live at The Bottom Line for a 2001 NYC show. Spirit of the Century mixes traditional Gospel (“Good Religion”, “No More”), with tracks from Tom Waits on The Blind Boys theme from TV’s The Wire, “Down in the Hole”, and The Rolling Stones “Just Want to See His Face”. The Blind Boys of Alabama marry Saturday night and Sunday morning as the music bed to the vocal for “Amazing Grace” hums “House of the Rising Sun”.