Blind Boys Reach For 'Higher Ground'

The Blind Boys of Alabama, now in their 63rd year of performing, will release the 12-track "Higher Ground" Sept. 3 via Peter Gabriel's Real World Records. Following the formula of last year's "Spirit

The Blind Boys of Alabama, now in their 63rd year of performing, will release the 12-track "Higher Ground" Sept. 3 via Peter Gabriel's Real World Records. Following the formula of last year's "Spirit of the Century," "Higher Ground" sees the band churning out gospel renditions of songs from well-known artists, including Prince, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, and Jimmy Cliff.

Backing original Blind Boys Clarence Fountain, Jimmy Carter, and George Scott this time out is Medeski, Martin & Wood contributor Robert Randolph, whose pedal steel stylings were showcased on last year's Atlantic album "The Word," which also featured the North Mississippi Allstars. Ben Harper contributes guitar work to three tunes.

"Higher Ground" finds the Blind Boys tackling Mayfield's "People Get Ready," Franklin's "Spirit in the Dark," Prince's "The Cross," Cliff's "Many Rivers To Cross" and Harper's "I Shall Not Walk Alone." Traditional selections such as "Wade in the Water," "Precious Lord," and "Freedom Road" are also interpreted, as well as a Blind Boys original, "Stand by Me."

As previously reported, the group will perform next month at the Bonnaroo Festival in Manchester, Tenn. An appearance is also confirmed for Rhode Island's Newport Folk Festival, which runs Aug. 2-4. Dates in New York and Los Angeles around the time of release are also being planned. A full itinerary can be found on the Blind Boys' official Web site.

The Blind Boys, who formed in 1939 at Alabama's Talladega Institute for the Blind, received their first mainstream success with "Spirit of the Century." The album peaked at No. 9 on Billboard's Top Gospel Albums and went on to win a Grammy for best traditional soul gospel album earlier this year.