The numbers alone bear out The Blind Boys of Alabama's status as one of the greatest and most venerated gospel groups the world has ever known. Formed under a different name in 1939, the band has understandably experienced many lineup changes in the 72 years since: Singer Jimmy Carter is the only participant in this lineup billed as a founding member, and even that term is up for debate. But there's no mistaking the tremendous legacy these men embody, from the 60-plus albums and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award to the group's 2007 induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
That said, numbers and awards don't sum up the gentle, easygoing grace of this Tiny Desk Concert, wherein these Blind Boys — young and old, blind and sighted — craft an impeccable mix of polished blues, swinging soul and from-the-gut gospel. The Blind Boys of Alabama's new album, Take the High Road, features an assortment of country stars, from Jamey Johnson and Willie Nelson to Lee Ann Womack and Hank Williams Jr. That the group so seamlessly bridges the worlds of country, gospel, blues and R&B speaks volumes about its impact on performers of every stripe, not to mention the graceful ease with which its message can stick to just about any soul.
- "Take The High Road"
- "I Know A Place"
- "Jesus Built A Bridge To Heaven"
- "Amazing Grace"
Michael Katzif (cameras); audio by Kevin Wait; photo by Maggie Starbard/NPR