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The Blind Boys of Alabama continue to evolve on Almost Home / relix

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To put things into perspective, when the Five Blind Boys of Alabama-the name under which they performed at the time-first recorded in 1948, most of the 1960s' future rock and R&B heroes were still wondering how their lives would change once they got into junior high. Nearly 70 years later, Blind Boys of Alabama-with surviving octogenarian co-founders Clarence Fountain and Jimmy Carter still involved-continue to evolve. Almost Home, divvies up the production four ways, with the tracks cut in four different cities. John Leventhal, who sat at the helm for the first three, collaborates on his segment with singer-songwriter Marc Cohn (Fountain and Carter, who still tours, each grab a co-credit). Interestingly, "God Knows Everything," a tune penned sans Blind Boys help, plays closest to the pure gospel vest. Later, Vance Powell and Charles Driebe utilize the songwriting talents of North Mississippi Allstars Cody and Luther Dickinson and Oteil Burbridge on the swampy "Pray for Peace," and Chris Goldsmith matches the group with Dylan's "I Shall Be Released," a song that you might feel needs a rest until you hear what these voices do with it. Finally, Los Lobos' Steve Berlin, keeps it rootsy, putting a Little Feat-esque backbeat on "I Can See," raving it up gospel-tent style on "I Kept on Walking" and closing it out in a grand way with massed vocals and plenty of jubilation on "I Was Called." Remarkably, given the pedigree, nothing about Almost Home feels retro-this is music that reaches across decades, belief systems and genres, its sole goal to spread some joy.