The Blind Boys of Alabama at City Winery | Concert preview
Gospel legends get into the Christmas spirit.
It’s easy to dismiss Christmas albums as cynical cash grabs. The same often goes for Christmas tours. But rest assured, when the Blind Boys of Alabama tackle the holidays, they do so with gusto. One of the longest-running gospel acts, the group has come far from its roots at the Alabama School for the Negro Deaf and Blind in Talladega more than 70 years ago. Those decades of experience inform every last note the “boys” belt out, radiating a soulfulness that’s led a who’s who of peers to perform with the group or otherwise bask in the outfit’s orbit.
Speaking of Christmas albums, the Blind Boys’ own offering, Go Tell It on the Mountain, was released nearly a decade ago, but the disc was recently reissued, a reminder that the best yuletide albums (however few and far between) are worth a listen all year round. In this particular case, the Blind Boys are assisted by an impressive array of those aforementioned peers and fans, from Aaron Neville on “Joy to the World” to Tom Waits on the title track, the latter’s unconventional take on gospel buoyed by the conviction of these remarkable vocalists. We’ve all heard sentimentalized and secularized versions of “Silent Night” sung by so many roving bands of kids and carolers, but to hear it sung by a group of masters is a stirring thing.