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.