In recording such songs as “Work Until My Days are Done” and “The Last Time,” the Blind Boys of Alabama indicate they saw what was coming as they made Echoes of the South.
Two longtime members of the band – Benjamin Moore Jr. and Paul Beasley, whose falsetto features prominently on “Jesus You’ve Been Good to Me” – died between the recording and release. And 91-year-old Jimmy Carter, the group’s last remaining tie to its 1944 founding, retired from touring just before the album was issued.
All of which makes Echoes of the South – its title in Braille features on the cover – something of an ending and a new beginning as the group soldiers on with new members.
“Here we are, the Blind Boys of Alabama,” Carter intones as his brothers in music sing wordlessly behind him on the opening “Send it on Down.”
“You know, we’ve been around a long time. But the good news is, we’re still here.”
This album finds the Blind Boys in full gospel mode, eschewing guest singers and musicians, as they cover Pop Staples’ “Friendship” and close the LP with an apropos plea in “Heaven Help Us All.” It’s is a fine coda to this iteration of the Blind Boys of Alabama.
Already on the road with Ricky McKinnie and Rev. Julius Love still on board, the band will likely release a kind of debut album in the not-too-distant future.