X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
The sacred and the profane aren’t supposed to mix. Many old-school soul and blues artists have told stories about the way their relatives drove them from their home for playing the devil’s music, casting them out to sing about all too earthly delights and temptations. But the sinner and the saint meet up and dance together on several recent CDs, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the line between spirituals and sexy soul music is as thin as the walls of a clapboard church. Take the Blind Boys of Alabama’s vibrant new disc, “Spirit of the Century” (Real World Records). The legendary gospel quartet does the standard “Amazing Grace,” but sets it to the tune of “House of the Rising Sun” — an old tune describing a man’s downfall at a New Orleans brothel, done most famously by The Animals in the mid-1960s. That radical step is hardly the quartet’s only effort at confounding expectations. The disc employs down-home blues and jazz instrumentation — stand-up bass intros, slide guitars, and mouth harps — as backdrops for sentiments such as “Jesus Gonna be Here,” and even takes on the aspect of primordial hip-hop on the spare, drum-driven “Run On for a Long Time.” Sixty-two years after leader Clarence Fountain helped form the group, the band is delivering sounds as deep and powerful as the ocean — especially on the set-closing “The Last Time,” when they shed the band and speculate whether “This may be the last time we ever shout together.” For the Blind Boys, crossing over has much more serious implications than it does for most artists, because they are talking about heaven, not CD sales. The Holmes Brothers, though, have always been comfortable spanning the roots, rock and rhythm spectrum, so it’s no major surprise to catch them “Speaking in Tongues” (Alligator Records). Their earthy, ragged-but-right sound is a fine fit for a few traditional songs, originals by bassist Sherman Holmes, and even secular soul stirrers like Gamble & Huff’s “Love Train.” Sherman, his guitar-playing brother Wendell, and drummer Popsy Dixon don’t have the pure pulpit power of the Blind Boys, but the disc is nonetheless an upbeat, hard-driving winner, as the trio and their guests funk up everything that comes their way. And then there’s Aaron Neville, tattoos covering his arms like a Rolling Thunder veteran roaring down the Mall on Memorial Day, singing the Lord’s praises on “Devotion” (Tell-It Records). The famous falsetto from Crescent City is usually busy applying his sweet sound to material like the evergreen ballad “Tell it Like it is,” but he works a few miracles here, especially on the swinging “Mary Don’t You Weep.” His own confession, “Jesus is a Friend of Mine,” is also moving, done in the old style of testifying in spoken word over swaying musical accompaniment and only occasionally breaking into song. Neville’s immediately recognizable vocal sound is always worthy of a close listen. But there’s enough schmaltz on the disc — a watery “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and a too-calm “Morning Has Broken” — to fill a testament or two. Can I get a witness? Bill Kisliuk is senior editor atLegal Times.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.

 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.