'That The Blind Boys of Alabama can enlist such a surprising and stellar cast on one...
Maud Hand 2003
When it comes to Christmas 2003, Go Tell it on the Mountain from The Blind Boys of Alabama is the carol collection to play at your yule-tide party. Not only does a percentage of the proceeds go to diabetes research - three of the Blind Boys are diabetic - but with Tom Waits and Meshell Ndegéocello on the credits, you can indulge your seasonal sentimentality with street cred intact!
Why haul out Bing's "White Christmas" when jazz pianist, Les McCann can do it scat-style? Who needs Phil Spector when you've got George Clinton's 12-bar blues funk on "Away in a Manager" or Mavis Staples belting out "Born in Bethlehem"? With Waits growling in a minor key to the title track, Michael Franti free-styling on "The Little Drummer Boy" and Chrissie Hynde harmonising to Richard Thompson's guitar "In The Bleak Midwinter", there's no excuse for Slade this Christmas.
That The Blind Boys of Alabama can enlist such a surprising and stellar cast on one CD is an indication of the esteem in which these double-grammy winning veterans of gospel music are held. Formed in 1939 at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind, three of the founding members, Clarence Fountain, Jimmy Carter and George Scott have tirelessly taken traditional gospel to new territories ever since.
Like earlier albums Spirit of the Century (2001) and Higher Ground (2002), John Chelew's production experiments with timeless traditional hymns to create a contemporary, sublime and often subversive sound. Robert Randulph's pedal steel on "Away in a Manger" is inspired as is MeShell Ndegéocello's sultry solo over "Come All Ye Faithful". Aaron Neville's a capella version of "Joy to the World" tenderly counterpoints the chorus while soul-singing pastor, Solomon Burke had me down on my praying knees.
If you want to melt under the mistletoe and feel groovy as you make the stuffing, then get Go Tell it on the Mountain. I guarantee, your festival will flow.