Blind Boys of Alabama, Take the High Road (Saguaro Road)

Blind Boys of Alabama, Take the High Road (Saguaro Road)

Updated Listen to Lee Ann Womack take the early lead on “I Was a Burden,” wavering from each pitch like a fast, heavy car struggling through a curve—painful, unpredictable, the least-likely superstar voice in recent years. Then hear the Blind Boys of Alabama back her up—always certain, but always shifting within that certainty, building twice to “when you’re standing in the light,” the first time with a conventional gospel push, second time with a hushed variation emphasizing awe.

Chet Flippo’s Take the High Road liner notes indicate that Blind Boys lead singer Jimmy Carter wanted to make a country gospel album for some time, and the new alliance with country’s Jamey Johnson, who co-produced here, made that viable. To my ears the underlying sound doesn’t shift radically. The Blind Boys go back to the beginning of World War II, more than far enough to remember and to embody the primordial tree from which the roots of roots music snaked away. But the gambit lets in plenty of high-powered country artists who checked their egos with Jesus at the door.

And so the Oak Ridge Boys blend their harmonies and trade testimonies with the Blind Boys on the title track, which cleverly folds faith into altruism, advice against “casting a stone” bolstered with the reminder that “we never walk alone.” Willie Nelson brings his slow-burning fire to “Family Bible”—more than any other American superstar, Willie simply is when he opens his mouth, a living Tao infused into American Southern values. Hank Williams, Jr. roughs up his father’s “I Saw the Light,” reminding us, again, that his father respected and drew from many traditions associated with many colors.

The Blind Boys may not make another country gospel album, but they seemingly effortlessly manage another many-splendored thing.

Buy the Blind Boys of Alabama’s Take the High Road on iTunes

Listen to the Blind Boys of Alabama’s Take the High Road on Spotify

Updated July 28, 12:58 p.m.

As a commenter says, Clarence Fountain is on the album. The text has been changed to remove statements to the contrary.

  • red kelly

    Clarence Fountain did not abdicate. He left the group in a dispute with Chris Goldsmith over production issues and choice of material, after which he was informed that he no longer had the ‘rights’ to the Blind Boys name, even though he is the only surviving founding member. He is currently living in Baton Rouge. You should interview him. Thanks.

  • red kelly

    Clarence Fountain did not abdicate. He left the group in a dispute with Chris Goldsmith over production issues and choice of material, after which he was informed that he no longer had the ‘rights’ to the Blind Boys name, even though he is the only surviving founding member. He is currently living in Baton Rouge. You should interview him. Thanks.

  • red kelly

    Clarence Fountain did not abdicate. He left the group in a dispute with Chris Goldsmith over production issues and choice of material, after which he was informed that he no longer had the ‘rights’ to the Blind Boys name, even though he is the only surviving founding member. He is currently living in Baton Rouge. You should interview him. Thanks.

  • red kelly

    Clarence Fountain did not abdicate. He left the group in a dispute with Chris Goldsmith over production issues and choice of material, after which he was informed that he no longer had the ‘rights’ to the Blind Boys name, even though he is the only surviving founding member. He is currently living in Baton Rouge. You should interview him. Thanks.

  • red kelly

    Clarence Fountain did not abdicate. He left the group in a dispute with Chris Goldsmith over production issues and choice of material, after which he was informed that he no longer had the ‘rights’ to the Blind Boys name, even though he is the only surviving founding member. He is currently living in Baton Rouge. You should interview him. Thanks.

  • red kelly

    Clarence Fountain did not abdicate. He left the group in a dispute with Chris Goldsmith over production issues and choice of material, after which he was informed that he no longer had the ‘rights’ to the Blind Boys name, even though he is the only surviving founding member. He is currently living in Baton Rouge. You should interview him. Thanks.

  • blind boys fan

    that is not true, clarence fountain is singing on this album!

  • blind boys fan

    that is not true, clarence fountain is singing on this album!

  • blind boys fan

    that is not true, clarence fountain is singing on this album!

  • blind boys fan

    that is not true, clarence fountain is singing on this album!

  • blind boys fan

    that is not true, clarence fountain is singing on this album!

  • blind boys fan

    that is not true, clarence fountain is singing on this album!

  • lawfan

    Lee Ann Womack is amazing on the…..”I was a Burden” track..I completely disagree with your comment about her! She was always on pitch and sounded absolutely amazing!!!

  • lawfan

    Lee Ann Womack is amazing on the…..”I was a Burden” track..I completely disagree with your comment about her! She was always on pitch and sounded absolutely amazing!!!

  • lawfan

    Lee Ann Womack is amazing on the…..”I was a Burden” track..I completely disagree with your comment about her! She was always on pitch and sounded absolutely amazing!!!

  • lawfan

    Lee Ann Womack is amazing on the…..”I was a Burden” track..I completely disagree with your comment about her! She was always on pitch and sounded absolutely amazing!!!

  • lawfan

    Lee Ann Womack is amazing on the…..”I was a Burden” track..I completely disagree with your comment about her! She was always on pitch and sounded absolutely amazing!!!

  • lawfan

    Lee Ann Womack is amazing on the…..”I was a Burden” track..I completely disagree with your comment about her! She was always on pitch and sounded absolutely amazing!!!