Long known as the Five Blind Boys of Alabama, this venerable gospel institution has seen its ranks fluctuate in recent years. Rarely, however, have the soul-stirring harmonies of the group, recording here as a quartet, benefited from such stellar support. Producer John Chelew (best known for John Hiatt
's breakthrough Bring the Family
) has enlisted guitarists David Lindley
and John Hammond
, bassist Danny Thompson
, drummer Michael Jerome, and harmonica ace Charlie Musselwhite
for a set that celebrates the bluesy underpinnings of gospel.
The selection of material mixes the traditional spirituals the group has been performing for more than a half century ("Nobody's Fault but Mine," "Motherless Child") with soulful readings from the more contemporary songbooks of Tom Waits, the Rolling Stones, and Ben Harper. Harper's "Give a Man a Home" receives a majestic vocal from Clarence Fountain, while the album's most audacious cut pairs the lyrics to "Amazing Grace" with the melody from "House of the Rising Sun." --Don McLeese