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Outline's Best of 2001Long known as the Five Blind Boys of Alabama, this venerable gospel institution has seen its ranks fluctuate in recent years. Rarely, however, have the soul-stirring harmonies of the group, recording here as a quartet, benefited from such stellar support. Producer John Chelew (best known for John Hiatt's breakthrough Bring the Family) has enlisted guitarists David Lindley and John Hammond, bassist Danny Thompson, drummer Michael Jerome, and harmonica ace Charlie Musselwhite for a set that celebrates the bluesy underpinnings of gospel.
The selection of material mixes the traditional spirituals the group has been performing for more than a half century ("Nobody's Fault but Mine," "Motherless Child") with soulful readings from the more contemporary songbooks of Tom Waits, the Rolling Stones, and Ben Harper. Harper's "Give a Man a Home" receives a majestic vocal from Clarence Fountain, while the album's most audacious cut pairs the lyrics to "Amazing Grace" with the melody from "House of the Rising Sun." --Don McLeese
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