When The Blind Boys of Alabama open their mouths to sing, what comes out is older than salvation, older than redemption, it is the sound of oppressions & struggle. It is the sound of revelation & liberation. It is a sound as old as time. The Blind Boys of Alabama are the pyramids of gospel music. The birthplace of sacred soul. What started out as me working with them on a couple tracks, blossomed & bloomed into an entire record in eight days. It all happened so fast. If it weren't for the recordings that prove that this magic actually happened I would not be entirely aware of what went on. - Ben Harper.
Jam Nation hero Ben Harper tones down his lap-slide guitar flash in favor of the holy spirit for this blend of originals and gospel classics, his first full-length album with the historic singing group. They've worked together before, on the Blind Boys' excellent Higher Ground
and Spirit of the Century
, but here the pairing that Harper has termed "a spiritual soul movement" sounds like an outright tent-revival mission. His fevered wah-wah strutting and sweet high voice take their places in the chorus alongside the raw-throated howl of Blind Boys leader Clarence Fountain and his fellow bass George Scott, who plead for salvation like powerful old lions on "Take My Hand." The group's alto, Jimmy Carter, sails over the funky, hiccupping blues beat put down by Harper's Innocent Criminals on the classic "Satisfied Mind." The best cut may be Harper's "Picture of Jesus," a country-music-informed adventure in old-school church harmonizing with the passionate power to touch souls. --Ted Drozdowski