News on Collective Soul, Blind Boys Of Alabama, Ronnie James Dio, Sam Bush

A visit by modern rock band Collective Soul to Morocco is the subject of the upcoming fifth episode of the TV/Web series "Music In High Places." Premiering Friday (Feb. 2) on DirecTV, the episode follows the band to the northernmost reaches of Africa, and features acoustic performances in front of the legendary Kasbah and in the dungeons of the 16th century El Badi Palace, among other exotic locales.

The monthly series features corresponding information, footage, and performances on its MSN Web site, and has captured the musical adventures of Alanis Morissette, Brian McKnight, Shawn Colvin, and Wynonna. Upcoming episodes will feature LeAnn Rimes and Wyclef Jean.

A newly signed worldwide distribution agreement with Imagine Entertainment will bring the series to DVD and home video in the near future, and producers expect to launch "Music In High Places" on MTV later this year.

Legendary gospel/soul group the Blind Boys Of Alabama revisit their roots and explore more modern compositions on the upcoming album, "Spirit Of The Century." Alongside the classic gospel for which the group is well-known, the 12-track set, due April 24 from Real World, also features covers of two Tom Waits songs ("Jesus Gonna Be Here," "Down In The Hole"), and a Ben Harper track ("Give A Man A Home").

Established over six decades ago, the group has injected many eclectic influences into its brand of gospel over the years, "but we really went into our old-time style on this new album," founder Clarence Fountain says. "We let our minds go back to 1939, when we were students at the Talladega Institute For The Blind, in Alabama."

Produced by John Chelew (John Hiatt, Bert Jansch), "Spirit Of The Century" features the musical talents of multi-instrumentalist David Lindley, blues guitarist John Hammond, and blues harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite, as well as bassist Danny Thompson and drummer Michael Jerome of Richard Thompson's band.

Valentine's Day will find veteran metal act Dio kicking off a third North American tour in support of the band's latest album, "Magica" (Spitfire), and the recent Rhino collection "The Very Beast Of Dio." Ronnie James Dio's namesake band will visit theaters and clubs with fellow metal outfits Lynch Mob and Armored Saint in tow.

Lynch Mob promises fans will hear new material slated for an album due out later this year, while Armored Saint will be out supporting last year's reunion album "Revelation" (Metal Blade). The tour will wrap March 10 in Anaheim, Calif.

In what sounds like a clash of cultures, renowned mandolinist Sam Bush and his band will perform Feb. 16-17 with the Augusta (Ga.) Ballet's presentation of "The Legend Of The Hatfields And McCoys." A celebration of Appalachian culture, the pairing seeks "to broaden the definition of theatrical dance," according to choreographer Peter Powlus, whose company has in the past worked with jazz great Wynton Marsalis.

Bush's latest release is the critically acclaimed Sugar Hill live album "Ice Caps: Peaks Of Telluride."