Blind Boys of Alabama

These days, if you hear old-time gospel harmonies on a new record, it’s probably the Blind Boys of Alabama. Likewise television (as in the first season of HBO’s The Wire) and film (O, Brother Where Art Thou?). Few artists have embraced and extended commercial appeal of gospel as much as the group (founded in 1939), something we now take for granted in the gospel-heavy work of Tom Waits, David Byrne, and Bob Dylan. Singer Jimmy Carter today leads the ensemble, taking their spiritual music into secular terrain and recently partnering with Ben Harper, Steve Earle, and Lou Reed. Their latest disc, Down in New Orleans, continues on that adventurous path, with assists from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Hot 8 Brass Band. Here, African and Anglo traditionals such as “Uncloudy Day” and “I’ll Fly Away” get second-slide funk treatments, while “How I Got Over” becomes a Sunday morning blues send-up. Their music expertly reflects the heavy-wool humidity of the Crescent City, drenched even thicker with their legendary hot-and-sweaty vocals. BRIAN J. BARR

Fri., Feb. 20, 8 p.m., 2009

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