It all started with a song. Back in March of 2010, the Blind Boys of Alabama were being honored by the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. That same night, country music star, Jamey Johnson, was also being honored. During a moment that night, Jamey walked out on stage with the Blind Boys of Alabama to sing “Down By the Riverside.” It was then that a connection was made. Fast forward a few months later and Jamey Johnson was producing the Blind Boys of Alabama latest hit album, “Take the High Road.” Alongside Johnson for the spiritual journey was Kevin “Swine” Grantt, Chris Goldsmith, and Chad Cromwell.
he album, “Take the High Road,” is just that – a higher step of a musical tribute to praise the Lord. The message is evident throughout the album. The historical event was recorded in Nashville’s famous RCA Old Studio A.
Starting with the title track, the Oak Ridge Boys join in to fill in on background vocals to provide an overall spiritual-filled vibe. Right off the bat, you know you are in for a journey like no other.
“Jesus, Hold My Hand,” is a conversation at the beginning that turns into singing about a dear friend the singer has in Jesus. He is being lead towards greater things in life.
It is as though Jamey Johnson is taking a step in the church pew of a small country church, picks up the old hymnal and sings “Have Thine Own way, Lord.” The old spiritual number is done with ease with Johnson’s vocals filled with the Blind Boys of Alabama in the background.
Lee Ann Womack joins in on the sessions on “I Was a Burden” with a voice that is like a songbird. Vince Gill would follow up with a toe tapping number with “Can You Give Me a Drink?” You can feel the energy in the air throughout the song. Next, Willie Nelson performs on “Family Bible,” complete with guitar picking style and stature of Nelson. Hank Williams, Jr. did a revised version of Hank, Sr.’s hit song “I Saw the Light” that is an up-tempo track that some may not be use to – but it works.
The Blind Boys of Alabama infused gospel and country music with the grooving sounds on “Jesus Built A Bridge To Heaven”, “Why Don’t You Live So God Can Use You”, and “Jesus, Hold My Hand.”
One of the most interesting takes of a song is “Lead Me Home,” which was written by country music singer Randy Houser. The song has been recorded by Jamey Johnson and Houser. The Blind Boys of Alabama’s recording is filled with sorrow, yet with hope to go towards the promise land.
“I Know a Place” is a testimony of a great place called Heaven. The laid back song eases into the spiritual path towards Heaven. The song itself was penned by Kevin “Swine” Grantt, who was so moved during the recording session that he had to leave to collect his thoughts before continuing.
As the journey is concluding, it is fitting that the last song is “The Last Mile of the Way.” It is as though you know you are heaven bound and the journey has come to an end.
Jamey Johnson confirmed to the New York Times that “there wasn’t one person who didn’t bawl like a baby or bust their heart open at least once” during the sessions. In listening to the album, you can obtain the overall vibe in the room in the historical recording sessions where music has no boundaries.
Jimmy Carter of the Blind Boys of Alabama said of the recording “These two traditions are very similar. There’s a lot of common ground in all kinds of music, and it keeps getting closer and closer together. That’s why we want to involve everybody in our music. We want to sing good music, no matter what kind it is. Most of all, we want to touch people’s lives. We want to leave them a message they can feed upon throughout their lives.”
The message is there – all it takes is to listen with your heart.
Jessica Blankenship is the owner and founder of Kentucky Country Music website with over 20 years experience in music journalism, concert planning, photography, and promotion. Jessica is a Kentucky Colonel and alumni of the 2019 Leadership Kentucky BRIGHT Class and a recipient of the Laurel County’s Ten Under 40 Award. Listen to her each week on WFKY on Friday mornings for the Nashville News Roundup.