The East Arkansas Community College Fine Arts Center in Forrest City presents The Blind Boys of Alabama with special guests Sara and Sean Watkins on Thursday, November 10 at 7:00 p.m.
September 28, 2011
East Arkansas Community College-Forrest City
Press Release-Photos Attached
The Blind Boys of Alabama ‘High Road Tour’ Visits EACC Fine Arts Center
The East Arkansas Community College Fine Arts Center in Forrest City presents The Blind Boys of Alabama with special guests Sara and Sean Watkins on Thursday, November 10 at 7:00 p.m. as part of the Season II Spotlight Series.
Much in the world has changed since the original version of the Blind Boys of Alabama first raised their voices together. That was in 1939, when the members were just kids at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in Talladega, Ala. Today, more than 70 years later, founding member Jimmy Carter can look back on a career far beyond what he and his colleagues could imagine at that time. The group has won a long list of awards, including Lifetime Achievement honors from the Grammys and the National Endowment for the Arts, entertained around the world, been profiled on 60 Minutes, sung for two Presidents at the White House and been inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
Throughout this long musical adventure, they kept one secret to themselves. “All my life, I’ve loved country music,” confesses Carter. “I was raised up around it. Back in the 1940s, I remember listening to Hank Williams and so many others. Their voices were great. The writers were great. And every song had a meaning. I still have loads of country music in my home and I play it all the time. As a matter fact, I’ve got it on XM radio as we speak.”
Though the group has recorded and performed with a few country artists, along with others as diverse as Ben Harper, Tom Petty, Peter Gabriel and Prince, they never crossed the line and committed to doing a project inspired by the country genre until now, with the release of Take the High Road on Saguaro Road Records. This landmark recording draws from modern and traditional country to enrich the group’s gospel-rooted sound with fresh and illuminating insight.
For years the Blind Boys had imagined such a project. But it wasn’t until they were voted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 2010 that their plans began to coalesce. The catalyst was their meeting rising country music star Jamey Johnson, who sang “Down by the Riverside” with them at the induction ceremony in Montgomery. Johnson, whose gifts as a songwriter and performer match his fierce commitment to country music’s history and tradition, is a longtime admirer of the Blind Boys. The experience of sharing the stage with him prompted the Blind Boys to seek his services to help bring their dream of doing a country gospel album to life.
Johnson was pivotal as well in lining up many of Nashville’s top country singers and A-list musicians for the sessions that resulted in the album Take the High Road. All it took was a personal call to bring Vince Gill, Willie Nelson, the Oak Ridge Boys, Hank Williams Jr. and Lee Ann Womack onboard. Each of these guests brought a distinctive perspective into the mix, but according to Carter, aside from being icons of country music, they all had one thing in common. “When we bring people in to our projects, we look for those that have some soul in their singing,” he notes. “All these folks, they bring soul. That’s why it sounds so good. That’s what it’s all about.”
“Out of all the records we’ve done together, this has been the most natural,” Goldsmith insists. “The connection between the material, the Nashville guests, and the Blind Boys felt like destiny. Somewhere in history, these two almost identical styles of music – country and gospel - went their separate ways. This record brings them back together.”
Carter puts it this way: “These two traditions are very similar. There’s a lot of common ground in all kinds of music, and it keeps getting closer and closer together. That’s why we want to involve everybody in our music. We want to sing good music, no matter what kind it is. Most of all, we want to touch people’s lives. We want to leave them a message they can feed upon throughout their lives.”
Singer/songwriter/fiddle player Sara Watkins will join the group for the performance. Watkins is best known as a founding member of the Grammy Award–winning, critically acclaimed and platinum-selling band Nickel Creek. With Nickel Creek on indefinite hiatus, she has made her self-titled debut solo album, recorded in Los Angeles and Nashville and produced by former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones. She will be appearing with her brother, Sean Watkins, guitarist for Nickel Creek, who has three solo albums to date. Sean is also one of the founding members of WPA, comprised of Luke Bulla and Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket). Sean and Sara Watkins perform as The Watkins Family in Los Angeles at a club called Largo. Frequent guests include Benmont Tench, Greg Leisz, and Fiona Apple.
The EACC Fine Arts Center is located at 1700 Newcastle Road in Forrest City, AR just off I-40. Tickets for The Blind Boys of Alabama with special guests Sara and Sean Watkins are $35 and will available online October 3rd at www.eacc.edu or by calling 870-633-4480 ext. 352.
Photos: The Blind Boys of Alabama and Sara and Sean Watkins