Let’s not kid ourselves: The Blind Boys of Alabama will never be able to replace Clarence Fountain, the lead singer and founding member who so galvanized local crowds during his performances at the Guthrie for “Gospel at Colonus.” Fountain has left the group and recently recorded the excellent “Stepping Up and Stepping Out” with another ex-Blind Boy of Alabama, Sam Butler.
But the absence of Fountain (and Butler) hasn’t affected the rich, multifaceted harmonies and the traditional but ever-lively vocal arrangements that combine to keep the remaining Blind Boys of Alabama among the premiere practitioners of the jubilee-style of gospel music. In fact the group was awarded their fifth Grammy Award for Best Traditional Gospel Album in 2009 for the recording “Down In New Orleans.”
At Orchestra Hall tonight, the Blind Boys will perform the holiday show “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” named after their 2003 disc (which also won a Grammy, in 2004) of Christmas songs both familiar (the title track, “Joy to the World,” “Away in a Manger,” “White Christmas”) and obscure (the chant-song “Born in Bethlehem,” Harry Connick Jr.’s “I Pray on Christmas,” and the British holiday song “In the Bleak Midwinter”).
Since almost everything they perform is deeply infused with spirituality, the set list is wide open, and could include their recent single, “Perfect Peace,” from their latest recording, “Duets.” In any case, we can expect blissful testimony in celebration of the almighty, with vocal bobbing and weaving that reinforces the definition of “make a joyful noise.”
Here is the group performing live at this year’s Stockholm Jazz Fest.
Here is a concert rendition of “Amazing Grace” from “Down in New Orleans.”
And here is an older Blind Boys of Alabama recording of “White Christmas” from the album “Mahalia & Friends at Christmastime.”
The Blind Boys of Alabama at Orchestra Hall, tonight at 7:30. Tickets are $22-$45.