Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Blind Boys of Alabama Release Their First Christmas Album

  • Jenni Parker and Allie Martin AgapePress
  • 2003 23 Dec
Blind Boys of Alabama Release Their First Christmas Album

After making music for more than six decades, the founding member of a long-beloved gospel ensemble says the Lord is allowing the group to spread its message to a new audience.

Clarence Fountain, 74, along with 71-year-old Jimmy Carter and 74-year-old George Scott are founding members of the popular Blind Boys of Alabama. They formed the musical group in 1939 at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind at Talladega.

Now more than 60 years later, the group has released its first-ever Christmas album: "Go Tell It On the Mountain." The founding members of the group, joined by more recent arrivals Joey Williams, Ricky McKinnie, Bobby Butler, and Tracy Pierce, are doing a series of Christmas concerts during the 2003 holiday season and will be performing songs from the new album, along with their special guests.

All the singers and the drummer are blind. The one sighted member of the group leads the others onto the stage and wears sunglasses during their performances. Then, from the moment they sound their first notes, the Blind Boys communicate to their audience a brilliant shared vision of hope in Christ.

Over the years of their existence, the Blind Boys of Alabama have slowly built a devoted following along the gospel circuit, even as they labored to expand the audience for traditional soul-gospel singing. The group has continued to move, surprise, and delight its growing audience, often by incorporating contemporary songs and innovative arrangements into their presentation of the good news in song.

Fountain gives God the glory for the group's longevity and its popularity. "We've done things that were unprecedented," he says, "but the Lord is good. Whatever He does, I look for Him to do it, and I don't have any problems, because I know He does things in His own time."

The singer notes that, even though it took the Blind Boys a long time to get around to making a Christmas compilation, everything the group has accomplished has happened in God's timing. "You want it done right now — that's how man is. God does it when He gets ready, and you can't hurry Him," Fountain says.

Among those accomplishments the Blind Boys could count awards, including the GRAMMY, and the Dove; accolades for their contributions to music for motion pictures, television, and the theater stage; induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame; and many other successes.

"We've done a lot of things. We've been in the movies, we've won GRAMMYs and ... things that other people have done, [God has] come along and done the same thing for us. So we're grateful," Fountain says.

And what does the long-time gospel music artist say the group members have learned from all this? More than anything else, the journey has taught them the importance of gratitude. According to Fountain, being ungrateful can cut a person off from many of God's blessings.

But on the other hand, Fountain says, "If you're grateful, the Lord will do more for you. So I just want to be grateful and thankful for what the Lord already has done, and what He is still doing."

The singer says the success of this album will be the best Christmas present he's ever had. "Go Tell it on the Mountain" features the Blind Boys of Alabama performing Christmas favorites in their unique and soulful style, and is enhanced by the talents of an extraordinary host of guest artists. Singers and musicians lending their talents to the project are Aaron Neville, Mavis Staples, Chrissie Hynde, Tom Waits, George Clinton, and many more.

The Blind Boys of Alabama are set to embark on a 40-city tour that will no doubt add many more lovers of gospel music to the ranks of those who already appreciate the group's artistry.

© 2003 AgapePress.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.