Thursday, August 03, 2006

Blind Boys, 2005

Washington Post, April 4, 2005

Jimmy Carter took a Washington crowd by storm on Saturday night--not former president Carter but the slender, graying founding member of the Blind Boys of Alabama.

At first, Carter and his six companions on the Lisner Auditorium stage seemed oddly expressionless. Their hard-core gospel sound was rousing and couldn't help but inspire. It was hard to miss with material like "Down by the Riverside," Tom Waits's "Way Down in the Hole" (with guest Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica) and "Atom Bomb" -- the Cold War song by the Soul Stirrers and the title track of the Blind Boys' new CD.

Clarence Fountain, the group's other surviving founding member, did his share of talking between numbers, but for the most part the musicians seemed mellow, even in their stop-sign-red suits. They let their music communicate for them, and communicate it did, building in power during a relatively brief but demanding set.

Demanding of the audience, that is. During a lengthy spiritual, the 73-year-old Carter became so worked up that he began hopping and spinning. Helped into the crowd, he pranced up and down the aisles on the arm of bassist Tracy Pierce, getting witnesses and emitting James Brown-worthy "Heys!" that sometimes lasted so long they sounded like sci-fi weapon fusillades. The audience did more dancing and clapping than the other performers did. And that's why, when Fountain declared during the encore, "We could go on all night," the weary, albeit delighted listeners were probably glad they wouldn't. Better that they should go on for years -- it's been more than 60 so far -- and give the rest of us a chance to catch our breath between visitations of the Spirit.

-- Pamela Murray Winters

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