The Blind Boys of Alabama recorded their latest Grammy Award winner, “Down in New Orleans,” with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. The proceeds from that album went to the restoration of the city. Now they raise their glorious voices on “Take The High Road,” the group’s first gospel country album.
Lead singer Jimmy Carter has been with the ensemble from the beginning 72 years ago at the Talladega Institute for the Blind in Alabama. He and his colleagues grew up singing and harmonizing in church, so it’s no wonder his five Grammy Awards and five Lifetime Achievement Awards were surpassed by his 2007 induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
They hope their new album full of inspiring and thoughtful songs will win a sixth Grammy. They are testing the waters when it comes to concert music because this is taking them in a new direction. Guest artists include Hank Williams, Jr., Willie Nelson, Lee Ann Womack, Vince Gill, and the Oak Ridge Boys. Carter’s favorite numbers are the title track and “I Know a Place,” a song with deep, deep meaning and a beautiful melody.
The Blind Boys of Alabama pride themselves on sharing their music and spirituality with the world. Carter is the only remaining founding member who acts regularly. The positive response from the public and many rewards constantly energize him and the current members, keeping them on top of their game.
Over the past decade, they have collaborated and toured with numerous prominent artists, including Taj Mahal, Prince, Aaron Neville, Bonnie Raitt, and Mavis Staples. They have appeared on radio and television shows by Imus, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, and Davis Letterman, and have appeared at the Edinburgh International Festival in Scotland and the Spoleto festival in Charleston, South Carolina.
Thinking about the highlights of his career, Carter remembers more than a page can fill, but the most important thing in his heart is the performances in the White House of three presidents, George Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. The second biggest thrill was receiving his first Grammy Award in 2002 for “Spirit of the Century.” Another topic close to his heart was the response of the people of New Orleans to the proceeds of “Down in New Orleans.”
He told them that the Alabama Blind Boys couldn’t use hammers and nails, but that they could sing and give hope to the people of the city. Her greatest pleasure comes from helping and touching people. When Carter takes the stage and hears the audience’s response, that’s his reward.