EarthBeat! Every Tone a Testimony: An African American Aural History

By Bellinger, Larry | Sojourners Magazine, July 2001 | Go to article overview

EarthBeat! Every Tone a Testimony: An African American Aural History


Bellinger, Larry, Sojourners Magazine


EarthBeat! Every Tone a Testimony: An African American Aural History, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

Led by the charismatic Clarence Fountain, the Blind Boys of Alabama are still going strong more than 60 years after coming together at the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind. Fountain and the two remaining core members of the group, George Scott and Jimmy Carter (no, not that Jimmy MUSIC Carter)--backed by a lean and tough studio band of roots-music warriors, including guitarist John Hammond and harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite--have made a new recording that is rooted in the sound of hardserabble Delta blues and old-time gospel.

On Spirit of the Century, the Blind Boys bring their strong and gritty harmonies to traditional gospel tunes like "Motherless Child" and "Good Religion" and put their stamp on songs by well known rock-and-roll writers such as Torn Waits, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards. In a dramatic tour de force, the group transforms the classic spiritual "Amazing Grace" by setting it to the tune of "House of the Rising Sun." Their version of the Rolling Stones' "Just Wanna See His Face" is a rip-snorting shouter that makes you wanna raise your hands and holler.

Recorded live at several folk festivals, the music on Say Yo' Business is a terrific celebration of spiritual, traditional, and international folk music by Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir. Graced by several guest artists of considerable stature--including Richie Havens, Odetta, Laura Love, Eric Bibb, and Kelly Joe Phelps--these great singers are backed by a tremendous rhythm section of drummers from Senegal and Venezuela. …

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