The Blind Boys of Alabama – Down in New Orleans (2008)

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Photo by Shannon Brickman

by Derrick Lord

The Blind Boys of Alabama have been providing great gospel music for so long, and have such a reputation in Southern Gospel circles, that for many no further review is needed. After all, they began carving their reputation in stone from humble beginnings at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind way back in 1939. Their career includes Grammy awards too numerous to count, and the inevitable induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

Nobody does the four-part gospel harmony known as “The Alabama style” better than the Blind Boys.

So, expectations were high for their 2008 release Down in New Orleans, and it’s a knockout: 12 songs of worship recorded in the Crescent City at Piety Street Studios, with some cream of the New Orleans music crop. It probably couldn’t have gone wrong, no matter what. Amazingly, the Blind Boys had never recorded in New Orleans or been backed by New Orleans musicians before. Thankfully that travesty is corrected here — with golden result. The Hot 8 Brass Band, Carl LeBlanc, Allen Toussaint, Bennie Pete and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band were there.

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band plays a hand, and mightily, in two of my all-time favorite hymns included here: “Down by the Riverside” and “Uncloudy Day.” An especially fine version of the old gospel burner “I’ll Fly Away,” featuring the Hot 8, is not to be missed. The bonus lucky 13th track is a live version of “Soldier (In the Army of the Lord),” as powerful an argument as had yet been made for seeing this group in concert.

Meantime, get a copy of Down in New Orleans. Fry up some chicken and cook up a mess of collard greens and macaroni and cheese on some lazy evening. Sit on the front porch and listen. You can thank me later.

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Derrick Lord

Derrick Lord

An Alabama-based blues- and roots-music lover, Derrick Lord was an original co-founder, with S. Victor Aaron and Nick DeRiso, of the music site that grew into Something Else! Reviews. One of Nick's all-time favorite meals happened with Derrick, at the legendary Dreamland BBQ. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Derrick Lord
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