Sound ‘Round: The Blind Boys of Alabama / Brandy Clark

Some pray more than others. 

The Blind Boys of Alabama – I’ll Find A Way (Song Masterworks)

blind boys of alabama - i'll find a way Their decades-long career began in the era of Dust Bowls and the New Deal when they were mere boys at the Alabama Institute for the Blind in Talladega. Age having called four of the original six members to their heavenly home, Jimmy Carter and Clarence Fountain remain earthbound and determined to sing His praises until fate intervenes. Though fragile in timbre and frail in vocal resolve, special guests from the indie-sphere appear on half the tracks to assist the elderly – Merrill Garbus’ reggae rendition of “I’ve Been Searching” is one I’m particularly fond of. Not every contributor, however, justifies their turn at the pulpit. Justin Vernon’s moodiness on “Every Grain of Sand” sounds like purgatory and dull folkie Sam Amidon is better off reciting Hail Maries than inspiring believers. The best moments are gospel as soul, gospel as blues, gospel as funk, gospel as a pulse so infectious it makes sinners move. “You know what? It sounds pretty good,” they say in the finale. “I’m beginning to feel all right.” Who says they can’t indulge their humanistic tendencies?  GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: “I’ve Been Searching” / “God Put A Rainbow In the Cloud” / “Jubilee”

Brandy Clark – 12 Stories (Slate Creek Records)

Brandy Clark - 12 StoriesFor a songwriter who has spent nearly a decade penning hits for Music City sluggers like Miranda Lambert, Reba and The Band Perry, this debut is surprisingly Anti-Nashville and refreshingly pro-Country. The approach is similar to Kacey Musgraves’ – a spot-on single cushioned by a bevy of sharp supporting tunes concerned with small towns, complicated love and weed. While Musgraves is prone to recite clichés as inspirational verse, Clark sticks to concise stories brimming with realism, humor, charm and emotional sincerity. Playing the lottery isn’t a vice but the only hope of escaping redneck dystopia.  A hungover husband’s laziness isn’t a burden, but motivation for female independence. The instant keeper and Song of the Year candidate, however,  is “Stripes,” wherein a scorned Clark ditches her womanizing man but spares his life because prison garb isn’t fashionable. Don’t mistake her mercy for weakness. “Hard time (won’t) be that hard on me,” she sings. Luke Bryan would be scared shitless. GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: Stripes” / “Pray To Jesus” / “Hungover


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