Marc Cohn & The Blind Boys of Alabama
Work To Do
BMG Rights Management (US) LLC
Here’s an interesting prospect. The Blind Boys of Alabama are a bit of a wax-works museum gospel act; gimmick. Marc Cohn is as far as most are concerned as one-hit-wonder from the early 1990s (but what a hit!)
This collaboration showcases their strengths and papers over any cracks at all – it’s a truly great collaboration that puts Cohn front and centre as lead singer and songwriter and has the Blind Boys so perfect in their backing role. That’s when they’re best. Great accompanists. And Cohn has songs for days, to anyone that did the listening beyond Walking In Memphis.
Here we have three new songs including the keenly observed Talk Back Mic and the gospel-referencing songs that Cohn made his name with – Listening to Levon is a standout, particularly in this rendition.
The three new studio cuts are joined to six songs from a set of live performances. The backing vocals of this umpteenth version of the Blind Boys really are sublime. And Cohn’s scratchy voice has gained perfect weight over the years, really warm and rich.
The Blind Boys aren’t just relegated to a backing role by the way, their take on Amazing Grace is one of the highlights, their lead Jimmy Carter sounding wonderful, particularly with some young blood pumping in soulful voices all around him.
And let’s get to that hit. The piano line introducing it before that first lyric about putting on blue suede shoes and touching down in the land of the blues. It really is one of the great modern songs – people talk of it being part of the Great American Songbook. It didn’t so much earn a place as just slide right in there back in 1991. This version with some of the vocals taken over by Jimmy Carter – including his famous long note-holding – makes it a live-favourite.
I love these sorts of collaborations. Artists you either forgot about – or were never the absolute greatest, never your total favourite – making something special by combining forces. There’s so much grit and soul and so many great songs on this record.
Well worth your time.
You can support Off The Tracks via PressPatron