Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Album Review: Blind Boys of Alabama- I'll Find a Way

The Blind Boys of Alabama
I'll Find a Way
*** and1/2 out of *****

The Blind Boys of Alabama are on a roll and winning 5 Grammy's since 2000 yet when it came to taking their next step they were faced with not having a record contract. After meeting with management behind the scenes a fairly unlikely collaboration started up between the group and former indie-folkie turned Grammy winner himself Justin Vernon (Bon Iver). The group was so impressed with the beginnings that they decided to self fund the project before Sony caught wind of the demos and offered them a multiple year recording contract. Upon first listen it is obvious why Sony would bite, I'll Find a Way will probably be taking home more trophies come Grammy time.

The disk does what you would expect a collaboration between these two to do, it offers Gospel tinged tunes with indie pop indulges and experiments. Not all work but most are enjoyable and there is a clear respect for craft here.The title track is a perfect blending of styles both new and old, the group forms the underpinnings while Shara Worden from My Brightest Diamond puts in a showstopping lead vocal performance. The track is an obscure one from Detroit songwriter Ted Lucas, but this may go down as the definitive version.  

Vernon's production is nuanced as each sound matters, such as the creaking rocking chair to start "Take Me To The Water". "I've Been Searching" picks up a bit of a reggae groove while "Jubilee" vocally pumps the holy energy. The cover of Bob Dylan's "Every Grain Of Sand" is inspired but an odd drum progression keeps it from soaring.  

Of the tracks that don't really work, "There Will Be No Peace (Until God Is Seated At The Conference Table)" is the most frustrating because the vocals of both the Boys and Casey Daniel from White Hinterland are gorgeous. The backing clicks and odd music just doesn't mesh and elevate the tune as high as it should go. "I'm Not Waiting Anymore" has the opposite issue as the music is engaging with minimal horns, sketchy sounds and light marching drums but Sam Amidon's vocals just don't hold up.   

The mid level gospel works are a professionally excellent as songs like "My God Is Real", "God Put A Rainbow", "I Shall Not Be Moved" and "Take Your Burden To The Lord And Leave It There" all have a down home roots vibe that is wam and comforting. Overall the disk is joyful without being celebratory, an impressive contridution from all parties involved.

Well done all around and gives us a new found respect for Vernon. Support the Artist here, buy the disk here and peep some video below:
Making of Album:

"I'll Find a Way"


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