I'll Find a Way The Blind Boys of Alabama
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- 1God Put A Rainbow In The Cloud02:40
- 2I'll Find A Way (To Carry It All)03:44
- 3I Am Not Waiting Anymore03:44
- 4I Shall Not Be Moved02:48
- 5Take Me To The Water03:26
- 6I've Been Searching02:42
- 7There Will Never Be Any Peace (Until God Is Seated At The Conference Table)05:22
- 8Take Your Burden To The Lord and Leave It There03:28
- 9Every Grain Of Sand05:27
- 10My God Is Real04:13
Info for I'll Find a Way
2013 album by the Gospel legends. Produced by Justin Vernon (Bon Iver, Kathleen Edwards), I'll Find a Way is a unique collaboration between one of popular music's longest-running acts and one of its fastest-rising stars. Known primarily for his work in the Indie and Folk realms, the Bon Iver frontman proved a perfect fit to work with the Blind Boys, exhibiting a deep knowledge and appreciation of Gospel music.
I'll Find a Way represents a strong new chapter for the Blind Boys of Alabama, whose career stretches back more than seventy years. Formed in the late 1930s at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in Talladega, the group has harmonized throughout the turbulent twentieth century and well into the twenty-first: from Jim Crow through Civil Rights and into the Obama era. They have, however, enjoyed some of their biggest and most rousing successes in the last ten years, during which they've won five Grammys, four Gospel Music Awards, and multiple invitations to sing at the White House.
For I'll Find a Way, their ninth studio album of the twenty-first century, the Blind Boys of Alabama - which includes Jimmy Carter, Eric 'Ricky' McKinnie, Joey Williams, Tracy Pierce, Ben Moore, and newest addition Paul Beasley - decamped to the wintry wild of rural Wisconsin to record at Vernon's April Base studio. Known primarily for his work in the indie and folk realms, the Bon Iver frontman proved a perfect fit to work with the Blind Boys, exhibiting a deep knowledge and appreciation of gospel music.
Vernon and old friend and band mate Phil Cook (Megafaun, The Shouting Matches) corralled a lively backing band for the album and hand-picked a range of songs for the Blind Boys to sing. Some numbers, such as 'Take Your Burden to the Lord And Leave It There,' have been sung for nearly a century now, while others, like 'I Am Not Waiting Anymore,' were penned only a year or two ago. The result of this unique collaboration is a collection of rousing tunes that address life's most desperate hours but also savor the triumphs and reassurances of faith.
One of the band's own stories of trial and triumph involves Clarence Fountain, a founding member of the Blind Boys and the group's leader for many decades. Serious health problems requiring weekly kidney dialysis have prevented him from touring with the other members of the group. When he couldn't travel to the Wisconsin sessions, the Blind Boys found a way to include him on the album, recording his robust bass vocals in Birmingham and adding them to the mix.
'That's an important part, that bass under everything,' explains Carter, the group's current leader and standout tenor. 'He gave those songs a true Blind Boys bottom. We wouldn't want to do a Blind Boys project without including Clarence. He will always be a Blind Boy even if he's not out on the road with us.'
A strikingly and confidently diverse album, I'll Find a Way features an array of guest vocalists representing a whole new generation of artists who find contemporary musical inspiration in America's gospel past. The daughter of two musicians who played in a Pentecostal church, Shara Worden of Detroit-based My Brightest Diamond lends her soaring voice to the title track (originally written and recorded by the Motown session musician Ted Lucas). Casey Dienel of White Hinterland sings lead on the Blind Boys' glorious cover of the Chi-Lites' 'There Will Never Be Any Peace (Until God Is Seated at the Conference Table),' whose luxuriant string arrangement has been replaced with a stoical beat, quietly ascending keyboard theme, and stirring saxophone solo courtesy of Minneapolis musician Mike Lewis.
In addition, I'll Find a Way features cameos by Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs ('I've Been Searching,' whose lilting reggae rhythms make it the album's most adventurous track), Patty Griffin (the barn-burning closer,'Jubilee'), and Sam Amidon (a spiritual version of the band Field Report's song, 'I Am Not Waiting Anymore'). Another highlight is the cover of Bob Dylan's 'Every Grain of Sand,' which is recast as a soul-searching duet between Carter and Vernon. 'Jimmy and I are coming from such different places,' says Vernon, 'and yet we're singing about the same thing. There are two perspectives in that song, and they're colliding.'
Whether backing up a guest artist or tearing through an old gospel standard, the Blind Boys show their inimitable range throughout I'll Find a Way, starting with the very first track, a cover of 'God Put a Rainbow in the Cloud.' The song is a country music chestnut, best known as a hit for Kitty Wells, yet Carter, an avowed fan of country music, knows the song through legendary bluegrass picker Ralph Stanley. 'I Shall Not Be Moved,' an anthem during the Civil Rights movement and, in Cook's view, 'the trunk of the gospel tree,' stomps nimbly, thanks to the Blind Boys' spry vocals and the studio band's crackling country-gospel accompaniment. 'Take Your Burden to the Lord And Leave It There,' a tune penned by the African American minister and composer Charles A. Tindley, jogs by on a light shuffle, as though newly relieved of all woes and worries. It recounts not the arduous journey to salvation, but the ecstatic relief of finding it.
The centerpiece of I'll Find a Way, however, may just be 'Take Me to the Water,' featuring newest Blind Boy Paul Beasley. Based on a performance by Nina Simone (one of Vernon's favorite artists), this version features a steady pace and a rich bed of harmonies, as Beasley pleads and testifies gloriously in his stately falsetto. Just days before this recording, he had made his live debut with the Blind Boys, but initially had some trouble with this tune. After some encouraging words from Carter, Beasley not only nailed a heart-stopping performance, but reduced everyone in the control room to tears. What you can't hear on the final version is his small audience erupting into shouts and applause on the other side of the glass.
Just as 'Take Me to the Water' moved the musicians to tears, so too will this album move the listener. This is the exuberant power of gospel music, which requires its performers to give themselves wholly to the songs. The Blind Boys have been doing that for nearly three-quarters of a century now, and even into their seventies and eighties - despite all obstacles - they don't plan to stop any time soon.
'It's not just singing,' explains the 82-year-old Carter. 'We're bringing the message to the people, and that message is the good news of God. We sing from the heart, and what comes from the heart reaches the heart. If you have any feeling in you, you will feel the Blind Boys.'
'A superweapon of roots-music uplift..' (Hal Horowitz, Rolling Stone)
'Inspired and relevant...borders on the miraculous.' (The Washington Post)
Jimmy Carter, vocals
Ricky McKinnie, drums, percussion, vocals
Ben Moore, vocals
Joey Williams, guitar, vocals
Paul Beasely, vocals
The Blind Boys of Alabama
This holiday season, music lovers will have a lot to celebrate because The Blind Boys of Alabama & Taj Mahal will be Talkin’ Christmas! Available on October 21 via Sony Music Masterworks, Talkin’ Christmas! is a summit meeting of two American music icons. It includes new versions of Christmas standards, covers of hidden gospel gems, and seven brand-new holiday songs – six of which are the first Christmas songs ever penned by the Blind Boys themselves. The new original songs include the title track ‘Talkin’ Christmas!,’ a funky tribute to the power of Christmas featuring Money Mark on keyboards, and the compassionate ‘What Can I Do?,’ which features Taj Mahal on vocals and is one of two songwriting collaborations with Stax Records soul legend William Bell. The album also features a hand-clapping rearrangement of the usually-slower classic ‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’ and a refreshingly intimate, acoustic version of ‘Silent Night.’
This first-ever Blind Boys-Taj Mahal album collaboration was a joy for Taj. “There are just some wonderful tunes that allow me to find a totally different way to play on this album,” says Taj Mahal. “It’s exciting to be a part of something that is such incredible music.”
The album also finds the Blind Boys back at the historic Capitol Studios in Hollywood, CA, and reunited with producer Chris Goldsmith and engineer Jimmy Hoyson, who have been associated with all five of the Blind Boys previous Grammy-winning projects. The analog recording techniques and “live band” approach to the tracks capture an organic blues-meets-gospel sound that is hard to find among the average highly-produced Christmas-season fare. With Mahal fully integrated into the musical landscape of the album on guitar, banjo, ukulele, harmonica and lending his vocals, ‘Talkin’ Christmas!’ is an inspired meeting of two musical giants. The result is a refreshingly humble approach to the holidays, focusing on the true spirit of the season with pure joy, great voices and the ‘all-are-welcome’ message that has been the signature of the Blind Boys’ albums in recent years.
“A lot of Christmas music is focused on Santa Claus and what gifts we might get during the holidays,” says founding Blind Boy Jimmy Carter. “We wanted to bring the emphasis back to what Christmas is really all about, a celebration of God’s unconditional love, which is demonstrated every year when millions of people do nice things for others instead of thinking only about themselves. When you think about it, the kind of love for others that Christmas brings out is the real miracle of the season.”
The Blind Boys of Alabama are recognized worldwide as living legends of gospel music. Celebrated by The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) with Lifetime Achievement Awards, inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and winners of five Grammy® Awards, they have attained the highest levels of achievement in a career that spans over 60 years. The Blind Boys are known for crossing multiple musical boundaries with their remarkable interpretations of everything from traditional gospel favorites to contemporary spiritual material by songwriters such as Ben Harper, Eric Clapton, Prince and Tom Waits. They have appeared on recordings with Bonnie Raitt, Tom Waits, k.d. lang, Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel, Willie Nelson, Susan Tedeschi, Solomon Burke, Aaron Neville, Ben Harper and most recently Justin Vernon, Patty Griffin, Merrill Garbus and Sam Amidon on their latest recording I’ll Find A Way. The Blind Boys of Alabama have made appearances on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Late Night with David Letterman, The Grammy® Awards, 60 Minutes, The Colbert Report and their own holiday special on PBS.
Two-time Grammy Award-winning composer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Taj Mahal is one of the most prominent and influential figures in the recent history of blues and roots music. Though his career began five decades ago with American blues, he has broadened his artistic scope over the years to include music representing virtually every corner of the world – west Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, the Hawaiian islands and so much more. Though influenced by his love of historical and ancestral roots in these genres, he never strayed too far from his country blues foundation. What ties it all together is his insatiable interest in musical discovery – an interest which has led him to this Gospel Christmas project.