Even though the Blind Boys of Alabama have been performing in one incarnation or another since the 1940s, their approach to the gospel tradition is far from purist. Of course, the group rather conventionally exalts Jesus Christ in nearly every song. But the singers seem to embrace a wider range of personas for the savior than most, from the compassionate caregiver on “Faith and Grace” and “Talk About Suffering” to the best buddy who will hook you up with “The Spirit in the Sky” to the apocalyptic ass-kicker on the album's mightiest track, “(Jesus Hits Like the) Atom Bomb,” which is also a clear (and surprising) political jab at the Bush administration's nuclear ambitions. The core vocal sextet has enlisted some heavyweight collaborators for this album, including Bay Area rapper Gift of Gab (from Blackalicious), guitarist David Hidalgo (Los Lobos), harmonica great Charlie Musselwhite, and veteran organist Billy Preston. Adding these tasteful players to the mix buoys the Blind Boys' soulful melodies and gives their music a multifaceted, contemporary uplift that runs the stylistic gamut, from pop to hip hop to deep electric blues. It's a spirited combination that lends credence to their gospel truth.
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