The Blind Boys of Alabama - Down By The Riverside
Down By The Riverside
Well folks, by now you should know that I'm down in New Orleans for my annual full immersion Gospel Tent experience at Jazz Fest. Just like we did last year, let's talk a little bit about The Blind Boys of Alabama's latest album.
With the help of Crescent City legends like Allen Toussaint and The Preservation Hall Jazz Band (both of whom are featured on our current swinging selection), The Blind Boys have come up with another winner. The Gospel roots of New Orleans run deep, and the decision to record down there was a brilliant one. In addition to some old-time Dixieland standards like this one, the Boys cover material ranging from moving Mahalia Jackson spirituals to a rousing rendition of Earl King's Make A Better World. Led by the charismatic Jimmy Carter and their newest full-time member, Ben Moore (aka Bobby Purify), they will be appearing at Tipitina's at a record release party on April 26th, along with Toussaint, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band and other special guests. It's great to see this venerable Gospel institution carrying on in such a fine manner.
...I'll tell you what, though. I miss Clarence Fountain. As we talked about a year ago, Clarence's diabetes has led to kidney problems which require ongoing dialysis. At that time, The Blind Boys released a statement that read "Clarence Fountain will be performing with The Blind Boys of Alabama whenever possible but his availability is subject to his health, which has been compromised by diabetes..." When I heard that they were recording Down in New Orleans last fall, I assumed that Clarence would be well enough to join them. Sadly, this was not the case. He is not mentioned at all in the liner notes, or on the Boys' website. Is it me, or is the fact that this is the first Blind Boys album without Clarence Fountain in over thirty years a big deal? I don't understand why more hasn't been made of that in the press...
This is one of the great voices in Gospel music, folks. In my opinion he is on a par with people like Archie Brownlee and Julius Cheeks. The fact that this voice has apparently left us... that when I saw him during Jazz Fest in 2006 it really was 'the last time', is something I can't totally take in right now. If indeed the Blind Boys have moved on without him, as it appears they have, I'd like to take a moment here to acknowledge this wonderful man for his sixty years of heartfelt praise and joyful song.
You changed my life, Mister Fountain, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. God Is Real.