Blind Boys of Alabama, My Brightest Diamond | Maurer Hall, Old Town School of Folk Music | Blues, Gospel, and R&B | Chicago Reader

Blind Boys of Alabama, My Brightest Diamond All Ages Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard Recommended Image

When: Sat., Nov. 9, 8 p.m. 2013

Iconic gospel vocal group the Blind Boys of Alabama have obviously undergone lots of personnel changes since forming in 1939. On the recent I’ll Find a Way (Sony Masterworks), the current quintet’s harmonizing is as soulful and vibrant as ever, but the group often sounds like a guest on its own record. Clarence Fountain, the sole surviving original member, added his trademark bass vocals from his home in Birmingham (he requires weekly kidney dialysis and isn’t fit for travel), while the rest of the band holed up in Fall Creek, Wisconsin, with producer Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, who frequently used them as background singers for an eclectic cast of his peers—Sam Amidon, Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond, Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards, Patty Griffin, and Casey Dienel of White Hinterland, among others. Thankfully the Blind Boys still take center stage for some stirring performances. On “I Shall Not Be Moved” and “Take Me to the Water,” the recently enlisted Paul Beasley astonishes with his falsetto singing, while the band put together by Vernon and Phil Cook of Megafaun recalls the slide-happy gospel-rock sound Ry Cooder fashioned when he worked with Terry Evans and Bobby King in the 80s. The most riveting material might be the most unexpected: Garbus delivers a beautifully sanctified version of the Derrick Morgan ska love song “I’ve Been Searching,” and Dienel is featured on a pared-down, atmospheric rendition of the lush Chi-Lites ballad “There Will Never Be Any Peace (Until God Is Seated at the Conference Table).” Worden opens with My Brightest Diamond, so I expect she’ll join the Blind Boys for their set. —Peter Margasak My Brightest Diamond opens.

Price: $45, $43 for members

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