Blind Boys of Alabama

An interview with singer Jimmy Carter
by Tina Hall
May 2011

Blind Boys of Alabama

Blind Boys of Alabama

It’s not every day that you find music which has earned as many awards as The Blind Boys of Alabama. They are, without a doubt, one of the most highly respected acts in Gospel music with five Grammy awards, and an induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. They have also found respect in relation to The National Endowment for the Arts with their Lifetime Achievement Awards. They were formed in 1939 and have a history that is as rich as their sound. Currently members include Ben Moore (vocals), Bishop Billy Bowers (vocals), Jimmy Carter (vocals), Eric “Ricky” McKinnie (drums/percussion/vocals), Joey Williams (lead guitar/vocals), Tracy Pierce (bass), Peter Levin (organ), and Clarence Fountain. Their latest album, Take The High Road, features music that could have easily been as appealing to past generations as it is today. The album showcases the band at its best, debuting on the Americana Radio Chart at #27. With Jamey Johnson co-producing and offering guest vocals, along with the likes of Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr., Vince Gill, The Oak Ridge Boys, and Lee Ann Womack, the album offers music with soul. Maximum Ink caught up with Jimmy Carter and spoke with him about gospel music and their new album.

Maximum Ink: Do you consider yourself privileged to be working in an act that is so steeped in tradition?
Jimmy Carter: Indeed. I consider myself very lucky to be part of The Blind Boys.

MI: Can you tell us a little about your early days? Did you always love music as a child? When did you first discover the power of music?
JC: In 1939, we were kids at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in Talladega, Alabama, and then in 1944 we decided to “hit the road” and start performing. As a child, I always loved music.

MI: Why do you think Gospel music has endured so well through the years?
JC: Gospel music has endured because gospel music is the good news of God. As long as there is God, there will always be gospel music.

MI: What do you think most of the public would be most surprised to learn about you as an individual? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
JC: That I am always full of surprises. The best advice I ever received was to serve God and do His will.

MI: How did it feel to perform for the Obama’s with Smokey Robinson, Bob Dylan, Natalie Cole, and John Mellencamp?
JC: I was especially glad to sing for President Obama since I never thought that we would have a black President. It was a special honor.

MI: What do you think is the most important thing you have learned from your work in music so far?
JC: The most important thing that my work has taught me is how kind people really are. We are treated so graciously everywhere we go.

MI: You worked with Hank Williams Jr. to record his father’s song. What was that like? Why do you think Hank Williams’ music has such a timeless appeal?
JC: For me it was an emotional time working with Hank Williams Jr. I enjoyed hearing him sing his father’s song and we were honored to record it with him. Hank Williams Jr. relates to a young generation and has such a timeless appeal since he presents the music they want to hear.

MI: There are a lot of great vocal guest appearances on this album. What was it like working such legendary vocalists?
JC: Everyone understood the connections between traditional country and gospel music, plus all of the guests shared a love of real and authentic spiritual music. I have always wanted to work with country legends, and recording this CD was one of the best experiences of my life.

MI: How was it to have Jamey Johnson co-produce this one?
JC: It’s been a dream of mine to do a country gospel album, and we couldn’t have found a better partner than Jamey. He is the best producer. When it came time to do a country record, we knew that we had to go to Nashville and do it right.

MI: What do you like to do with any free time you get on the road and off?
JC: I am a big sports fan, and I enjoy baseball, basketball, and football games.

MI: What can your fans look forward to next?
JC: Probably another country-gospel record.

MI: Would you like to say anything in closing?
JC: Thanks to everyone out there that listens to our music. I sincerely hope you like Take The High Road. After all, there was a time when country-gospel and soul-gospel shared the same hymnal. We just wanted to bring it all back together.

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Blind Boys of Alabama
CD: Take The High Road Record Label: Saguaro Road Records
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