If The Blind Boys of Alabama’s surviving founders, Clarence Fountain and Jimmy Carter, never get around to writing their memoirs, the autobiographical slant of the legendary gospel group’s new album, Almost Home, will be close enough. Fountain (87 years young) and Carter (85) started singing together as schoolboys in 1939 and went pro in 1944; The Blind Boys of Alabama began their recording career four years later. Nearly seven decades down the line, Almost Home looks back on the long, hard, but ultimately gratifying road they’ve taken.
The album includes bespoke compositions by Americana songsmiths like Ruthie Foster, Cris Jacobs, and Valerie June, as well as a couple of straight-up cover tunes. But the whole thing really revolves around a batch of songs written by others with input from The Blind Boys, making the personal stories of Fountain and Carter a crucial part of the proceedings, and chronicling a journey marked by both jubilation and tribulation. Don’t forget we’re talking about an African-American group from the South that spent a sizable chunk of its career sans civil rights.