It’s Saturday morning at midnight, in April, and I just finished watching The Blind Boys Of Alabama Christmas DVD and it makes me long for the holiday. But, not the holiday where we put up the tree because, well, that’s the thing to do, and we give each other crap from Best Buy and Target because, well, that’s the thing to do. I’m talking about the holiday that George Scott, Clarence Fountain and Jimmy Carter, the three remaining founding members, who had been there since 1939, must have experienced.
I’m talking about the holiday where the spirit, whether it be the positive energy they generate from themselves, or from a higher power, moves Carter to go out into an audience and walk, with guidance of course, among the people, and sing with them and, like a good old Sunday sermon, feel compelled to ask “can I get a witness?” and just radiate, radiate such a positive energy that you can’t help but smile at this jubilant, engaging thoroughly honest old man who just wants to sing gospel songs.
The December 2003 show brought out a number of special guests, including gospel singer Mavis Staple, doo-wop legend Aaron Neville and, of all people, Chrissie Hynde. Though Hynde, in a gaudy outfit and heavy black eye makeup that makes her look a cross between David Bowie and Marilyn Manson, physically seems the most out of place, she actually is one of the guests who appears the happiest to be up on stage with the Blind Boys. Her rendition of the popular English Christmas song “In the Bleak Midwinter” is stirring and later on, when Carter’s taken his show out into the audience for “Someone Watches Over Me”, which can best be described as a gospel jam session, she is the one who is peering from offstage at the joyous sight, barely able to contain herself until the next time she’s to come back on.
That anticipant energy is all over the over two-hour performance. Scott and Fountain, who appear to have aged a little harder than Carter and choose to sit for most of the show, are moved every so often to get out of their seats too. Scott’s “Run On”, with its funky bass lick and his deep, commanding voice, is like a firm but meaningful preacher doling out valuable life lessons, “If I Had A Hammer” a hand-slapping, toe tapping feast and “Amazing Grace”, to the tune “In The House of the Rising Sun” is just simply awesome.
Sadly, George Scott died in his sleep in March at the age of 75. He had retired from touring in 2004, making this one of his final recorded performances.
DVD bonuses are sparse, with a brief interview with Scott, Fountain and Carter, some interviews with guests, Spanish and French subtitle options and a couple of music videos, including the cute “Last Month of the Year”, which has the bored and nearly comatose audience members of a last manger performance opt to step into the next room where the Blind Boys are rocking out. Even the performers themselves can’t help but break character and leave the room.
Despite the lean bonus offerings, the real meat is the performance. The Blind Boys of Alabama’s honesty, heart and soul will resonate with anyone who can appreciate a good tune, whether you listen to gospel regularly, or you listen to Death Metal like me. I mean, c’mon, how can you not be moved?