Up In New Orleans might have been a more appropriate title for this effort by the Blind Boys Of Alabama, one of the more soul-lifting efforts to be recorded in the Crescent City in the post-Katrina era. Not that you have to read any specific contemporary meaning into tunes such as the gospel classic "When I Got Over" and "I've Got A Home" to be stirred by the venerable gospel group's deeply knowing, resiliently rough-hewn renditions.
Teaming the Blind Boys with a varied, generations-spanning lineup of New Orleans players is one of those concepts that might have worked better on paper than in the studio (as was the case with some of the group's forays into pop). But anchored by the ever-invaluable pianist and organist David Torkanowsky, the Blind Boys don't miss a second-line beat in tailoring their style to a sister roots form.
Led by Jimmy Carter (fellow founding member Clarence Fountain has been ill; George Scott died last year), the Blind Boys bask in the accompaniment of the young Hot 8 Brass Band and the long-running Preservation Hall Jazz Band. They get down on Earl King's R&B classic "Make A Better World". In a duo with the great, surpassingly eloquent Allen Toussaint, Carter soars on the Mahalia Jackson classic "If I Could Help Somebody". And the Blind Boys' rendition of "Down By The Riverside", which also features Toussaint, is the first version of the song in a long time to really stand out.
We're told this is the first album the Blind Boys have recorded in New Orleans since they came into being more than 60 years ago. A return trip might be required.