By Theresa Goffredo Herald Writer
They may sing gospel, but a Blind Boys of Alabama concert ain’t nothing like a church service.
The Blind Boys’ live shows are roof-raising affairs and that behavior is encouraged by founding member Jimmy Carter.
“When I get on the stage, what I always tell my audience is we don’t like to sing to a conservative crowd,” Carter said in a phone interview from his home in Alabama. “I like everybody to feel comfortable, so we encourage the crowd to jump up and dance around and clap their hands.
“I tell them to go ahead and do that because we are going to be doing the same thing.”
The Blind Boys will make a stop on their worldwide tour on Saturday at Edmonds Center for the Arts. They have played Washington state many times but this is their first appearance in Edmonds.
The have also performed on “The Tonight Show,” “Late Night with David Letterman,” “60 Minutes” and on their own PBS holiday special.
The singers, along with the instrumentalists — a lead guitarist, a bass guitarist, a keyboard player and drummer — will number seven on stage and will perform a 75-minute set.
The instrumentalists are not blind, Carter said, adding that “we are very fortunate because they sing as well.”
During the set, The Blind Boys will perform some of their signature tunes, including an arrangement of Tom Waits’ “Down in the Hole,” Ben Harper’s “There will be a Light” and “Amazing Grace.”
The Blind Boys are known for their interpretations of all types of music, from traditional gospel songs to contemporary material by songwriters such as Waits and Harper along with Curtis Mayfield, Eric Clapton and Prince.
They have appeared on recordings with such artists as Bonnie Raitt, Randy Travis, k.d. lang, Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel, Charlie Musselwhite, Susan Tedeschi, Solomon Burke, Marty Stuart and Asleep at the Wheel, according to their bio.
Their latest album, “Take the High Road,” has been out for a year and a half. It’s a country-inspired album that features tracks with Hank Williams Jr., Willie Nelson, Lee Ann Womack and the Oak Ridge Boys.
The audience can expect to hear some music from that album, Carter said.
“It’s country-inspired and it’s the first record of its kind for The Blind Boys,” Carter said. “I am a country music fan myself and it was a pleasure and privilege because I’ve always wanted to do a country project.”
But make no mistake, even this country-inspired album is gospel.
“All we are is gospel. That’s all we do,” Carter said. “After our concert the audience will know the difference.”
In fact, The Blind Boys of Alabama are known worldwide as living legends of gospel music. They have been inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and honored with five Grammy Awards and with Lifetime Achievement Awards from The National Endowment for the Arts.
To underscore their role as a gospel group, Carter emphasized that their mission is to touch people’s lives with a message of hope.
“We are a gospel group and we are singing about Jesus,” Carter said. “So we try to encourage people that are downtrodden or without hope. That’s our message: We come into their lives and let them know there is hope. That’s what we are all about.”
The Blind Boys of Alabama perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Edmonds Center for the Arts, 410 Fourth Ave. N, Edmonds.
Tickets are $40, $45, $50 and $15 for youth and students. Call the ECA box office 425-275-9595, or go online at www.ec4arts.org.
Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424; firstname.lastname@example.org.