March 2006

The Blind Boys of Alabama | with Susan Tedeschi opening the evening
March 3, 2006Massey HallToronto
The Blind Boys of Alabama brought Jesus and a sparkling angel with them
by Sue Bullas with photo by Roger Humbert
One beautiful night in Massey Hall the Blind Boys of Alabama led me to salvation. The brotherhood that has developed between these men is evident. Over their years of performing, their voices have come to meld together like an instrument with an unknown range.
“It doesn’t take a lot to get us stirred up. We didn’t come to Toronto looking for Jesus, we brought him with us” said Clarence Fountain. Reviving hits like “Spirit in the Sky” and the melody of the “House of the Rising Sun” with the words to “Amazing Grace”, their reach into the listener pool is ageless and endless. They have worked with some of the best in the business and it shows. They covered a Ben Harper tune while also bringing us some old classics we may never have heard but for the Boys.

Each is his own character but together they are greater than their parts. We have one powerhouse (Bishop Billy Bowers), one ring leader (Clarence Fountain) and the man who wanders and can hold a note endlessly (Jimmy Carter), while the drummer presides over the whole production (Ricky McKinney) and the young guns (Caleb Butler, Joey Williams, Tracey Pierce) try to keep order. As Clarence Fountain says “we lost a member since we were here last but the new guy is pretty good.” The dancing and spinning and workin’ the crowd makes me wish I could have seen them in their prime.

They have the humor of B.B. King, the spirit of the almighty and voices of angels sent to save our souls. Oh yeah, and they are all great dressers. I was saved, in style, if only for the night.

Clarence Fountain (2004)

Susan Tedeschi

She walked on the stage with a beautiful glittery skirt and heels - something I don’t ever remember seeing a blues woman wearing with quite as much style and femininity. Her guitar almost looked too big for her and then she opened her mouth and blew me away. She has a big, incredible voice that is a mix of great blues women, Bonnie Raitt with some Janis Joplin thrown in and the earthiness of Mary Chapin Carpenter. She has a unique style and a presence that takes over the hall in a friendly, un-arrogant way.

Her band mates support and keep up to her style and ability. The two most animated are the keyboard player and the drummer. Susan appreciates and enjoys as both the keyboard/organ and sax play their stand-out solos. The bass player is not to be forgotten as he and Susan play together. Their best was “The Feeling that Music Brings” which she co-composed with her husband. If you weren’t caught up by now (the 4th song) this song would surely have swept you into her spell.

She has a relationship with the Blind Boys of Alabama, sneaking on stage to enjoy their set and eventually joining them on stage at the end of their encore. I have to admit feeling chills up my spine when three of the Boys came on at the end of Susan’s set to sing with her. Greater powers were present.

I always wanted to be able to sing like Ella Fitzgerald. Now I want to be able to sing with the feeling, the power and the grace that Susan seems to project with ease. I‘ll be waiting for her headline tour.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Sue Bullas
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Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report

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