The Blind Boys of Alabama will release their first album in three years, entitled Almost Home, on August 18. The album will be released on the band's own BBOA Records label and was developed in collaboration with Amazon Music. The 12-song collection serves as a fitting capstone to a seven-decade career that has both defined the sound of the American South and pushed it forward from the 20th century and into the 21st. Starting August 18, Almost Home will be available to stream exclusively on Amazon Music - both Amazon Music Unlimited and Prime Music, in addition to its exclusive availability as a digital download and physical release. Almost Home is now available for pre-order at: http://amazon.com/almosthome. This morning NPR Music shared a playlist of four album tracks, calling them "a gorgeous rumination on the body's labor and soul's legacy," listen here: http://n.pr/2tC5AN6
Almost Home was recorded over four different sessions with four different GRAMMY-winning producers in four different cities. The album is composed primarily of original songs, which focus on the remarkable journey of the band's two surviving original members, long-time leader Clarence Fountain, and current leader Jimmy Carter. It features songwriting contributions from an exceptional collection of artists including Valerie June, North Mississippi Allstars, Phil Cook, John Leventhal, Marc Cohn, Ruthie Foster, and more. Leventhal (Rosanne Cash, William Bell) recorded with the Blind Boys and their band in New York City, Vance Powell (Chris Stapleton, Jack White) in Nashville, Chris Goldsmith (Charlie Musselwhite, Ben Harper) in Seattle, and Los Lobos' Steve Berlin (Faith No More, Buckwheat Zydeco) at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals.
Almost Home succeeds in looking backwards, while still sounding as vital and modern as ever. From the propulsive, piano-pounding groove of "I Kept on Walking" to the album's shining, soul-filled title track, the epic story of the struggles and triumphs of the octogenarian original members is revealed. A stripped-down, gorgeous cover of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" and an upbeat version of Billy Joe Shaver's "Live Forever," both of which fit the theme, help to round out the tracklist.
Since releasing their debut single in 1948, the Blind Boys have been hailed as "gospel titans" by Rolling Stone, received five GRAMMY Awards (plus one for Lifetime Achievement), entered the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, collaborated with everyone from Mavis Staples and Stevie Wonder to Prince and Lou Reed, and performed on some of the world's most prestigious stages. The New York Times said that they "came to epitomize what is known as jubilee singing, a livelier breed of gospel music," adding that "they made it zestier still by adding jazz and blues idioms and turning up the volume, creating a sound...like the rock 'n' roll that grew out of it." The New Yorker simply called them "legendary."
The Blind Boys will play select shows around the release date of Almost Home, and will then embark on a lengthy tour with Irma Thomas, "The Soul Queen of New Orleans," in September.
Almost Home Tracklist (with songwriter info):
- Stay on the Gospel Side (John Leventhal/Marc Cohn/Clarence Fountain)
- Let My Mother Live (John Leventhal/Marc Cohn/Jimmy Carter)
- God Knows Everything (John Leventhal/Marc Cohn)
- Pray For Peace (Luther Dickinson/Cody Dickinson/Oteil Burbridge/Joey Williams/Ray Ladson/Charles Driebe)
- Singing Brings Us Closer (Phil Cook)
- Almost Home (Randall Bramblett/Clarence Fountain/Jimmy Carter)
- Live Forever (Billy Joe Shaver)
- I Shall Be Released (Bob Dylan)
- Train Fare (Valerie June)
- I Can See (Joey Williams/Ray Ladson/Jimmy Sloan)
- I Kept on Walking (Cris Jacobs)
- I Was Called (Ruthie Foster/Scottie Miller)
Tracks 1-3 Produced by John Leventhal in New York City
Tracks 4-6 Produced by Vance Powell and Charles Driebe in Nashville
Tracks 7-9 Produced by Chris Goldsmith in Seattle
Tracks 10-12 Produced by Steve Berlin in Muscle Shoals, Alabama