Clarence Fountain & Sam Butler - Me and Jesus
Me and Jesus
Today is Clarence Fountain's eightieth birthday. With the passing of Johnny Fields last week, Clarence became the only surviving member of the original Five Blind Boys of Alabama. Truly one of the great voices of Gospel Music, you already know how I feel about him.
It did my heart good to see Clarence accept the Blind Boys' Lifetime Achievement Award at The Grammys this year, even though he is no longer with the group. I imagined it may indeed have been 'the last time' I'd ever see him... but Clarence is not through.
At Jazz Fest in New Orleans in April, Solomon Burke was kind enough to invite my wife and I backstage during his performance. I almost fell off the floor when he brought out special guest Clarence Fountain to perform a few songs from his soon to be released new album!
Accompanied by Sam Butler, Clarence just brought down the house! The fact that Butler, whose work with The Blind Boys in the eighties produced such classics as Look Where He Brought Me From and Changed Man, was back working with Clarence was music to my ears!
Fountain, who does not appear on The Blind Boys' last album Down In New Orleans, left the group last year (just as he had done in the mid-seventies) citing long time 'creative differences' with their producer Chris Goldsmith, particulary over song selection. Stepping Up and Stepping Out is a collaboration with Butler that was co-produced with Jim Tullio, the producer of Mavis Staples critically acclaimed Have A Little Faith. When Solomon Burke, himself a huge fan of Mister Fountain, came on board as Executive Producer, the project got bumped up to the next level. By arrangement with Solomon's The One World Entertainment Systems, it was released on Tyscot Records in August. You need to own a copy.
Make no mistake, Clarence Fountain is the real deal. With George Scott and now Johnny Fields passing on, he is the last of the Happyland Singers, the group he formed in 1939 that went on to become The Five Blind Boys of Alabama. He should be considered a national treasure. On this milestone in his life, please join with me in wishing him a happy and a healthy birthday, and many more years of lifting his amazing voice in praise of the God he has steadfastly refused to abandon.