The Blind Boys Of Alabama Keep The Faith With ‘Almost Home'

Nov 1, 2018

Almost Home is the latest album by The Blind Boys of Alabama, the gospel group founded in 1939 that continues to this day.

The record tells the stories of longtime band leader Clarence Fountain (who died in 2018) and current leader Jimmy Carter (an original member). Born during the Great Depression and raised during the Jim Crow era, both men were sent to a school for the blind where the primary expectation for their lives was to make brooms or mops. Across the decades, both men have traveled the world many times over, creating music that seemingly finds a broader audience with each passing year.

Although not a founding member, Eric "Ricky" McKinnie has been on hand to a tremendous rise in the group's popularity and has been on hand for a series of impressive collaborations across the decades. The Blind Boys of Alabama will perform at Hutchison's historic Fox Theater on Friday, November 2.

Interview Highlights

What changed with the band from the time that you joined until now? It seems like there's more mainstream popularity.

We have recorded with different artists from all different genres, that's one thing that's changed.

Maybe tell me a little bit about some of the people you've worked with and if you have any particularly strong memories about working with them.

Aaron Neville and Mavis Staples, Bonnie Raitt, that's some of the people we've worked with. With Aaron Neville we traveled pretty much all over the world together. Mavis was a longtime friend. It was good to be able to do some work with her. Bonnie Raitt took us to another level as far as the blues was concerned and it was good to be able to sing on her record. We were going to sing three or four songs with Ben Harper and ended up doing a whole album. There Will Be A Light was a Grammy-winning record.

It's been out for a little while but the record Almost Home is still very much on peoples' minds. What went into the making of that.

The songs were built on the lives of Clarence Fountain and Jimmy Carter. They interviewed them and wrote songs to go along with their lives' stories.

Obviously, there's the connection with gospel music but I know that sometimes you do things that are not necessarily intended to be gospel but they become gospel because you're singing them. "I Shall Be Released" isn't necessarily a religious songs but there are those elements in the lyrics.

What's from the heart reaches the heart. When it's a soulful song and tells a good story, it touches you in a different way. That's what it's all about.

Do you ever imagine, when you started playing music, that your life would turn out this way and you'd go all these places and work with all these people?

I didn't know who, when or where but I've always been a dreamer. The thing is, if you can dream your dream, do the work, keep the faith, things work out. I had always dreamed of doing great things. So here I am with the Blind Boys, I've been very fortunate, very blessed.

Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.