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 toward the city’s restoration. Now they raise their glorious voices in “Take The High Road,” the group’s first country gospel album.
Lead singer Jimmy Carter has been with the ensemble since the beginning 72 years ago at Alabama’s Talladega Institute for the Blind. He and his colleagues grew up singing and harmonizing in the church, so it is no wonder that their five Grammy Awards and five Lifetime Achievement Awards were topped by their 2007 induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
They hope their new album filled with uplifting and thoughtful songs will earn a sixth Grammy. They are testing the waters as far as concert music goes because this takes them in a new direction. The 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 song and “I Know a Place,” a song with deep, deep meaning and a beautiful melody.
The Blind Boys of Alabama are proud to share their music and spirituality with the world. Carter is the only remaining founding member who performs regularly. The positive public response and many rewards constantly energize him and the current members, keeping them at the top of their game.
During the past decade, they have collaborated and toured with numerous noted artists, among them Taj Mahal, Prince, Aaron Neville, Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples. They have appeared on the radio and TV shows of Imus, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien and Davis Letterman, and have been featured at the Edinburgh International Festival in Scotland and the Spoleto festival in Charleston, South Carolina.
Thinking back upon the highlights of his career, Carter recalls more than can fill a page, but foremost in his heart are the performances at the White House for three presidents, George Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. The second biggest thrill was receiving their very first Grammy Award in 2002 for “Spirit of the Century.” Another close to his heart was the response from the people of New Orleans for the proceeds from “Down in New Orleans.”
He told them the Blind Boys of Alabama couldn’t use hammers and nails, but they could sing and give hope to people in the city. Their greatest pleasure comes from helping and touching people. When Carter gets on stage and hears the audience response, that is his reward.