The Blind Boys of Alabama have been performing gospel for the better part of the 20th century all the way into the 21st.
But this group's status as veteran musicians doesn't keep them from new musical explorations. Far from it: the Blind Boys got their start in the 1940s and '50s singing gospel music on the road, and have brought their rich, layered harmonies into a new century with albums and musical collaborations that meld gospel with influences from blues to rock.
The group is careful never to stray too far from the gospel sound and its primary subject — matters of the spirit — and their lively, stirring performances continue to draw new audiences over the decades.
The Blind Boys of Alabama will perform at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, at The Guild Theatre. Roots artist Miko Marks opens the show.
The group's first Grammy Award came with its 2001 album "Spirit of the Century," which brought together more traditional gospel tunes with fresh takes on songs by artists such as the Rolling Stones and Tom Waits — in fact, the group's rendition of Waits' "Way Down in the Hole" brought them even more listeners when showrunner David Simon featured the song as the theme for the first season of the TV show "The Wire."
The Blind Boys have gone on to collaborate with numerous artists, including Peter Gabriel, Willie Nelson, Ben Harper, Mavis Staples, Aaron Neville, Patty Griffin, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Allen Toussaint.
They have continued to tour and release albums, including the 2013 release "I'll Find a Way" featuring a mix of new and old gospel and spiritual songs and a Christmas album the following year, with blues artist Taj Mahal with a blend of traditional and original holiday songs.
In 2019 they released "Work to Do," an album with singer-songwriter Marc Cohn featuring both live and studio tracks of Cohn and the Blind Boys of Alabama performing together.
They also recently toured with afro-pop duo Amadou & Mariam.
Last year, the group received a Grammy nomination for the song "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free," a collaboration with genre-spanning banjo player Béla Fleck. The song was made famous by Nina Simone as an anthem of the Civil Rights Movement.
The Blind Boys of Alabama perform Feb. 9 at The Guild Theatre, 949 El Camino Real, Menlo Park. Tickets are $58-$88. For more information, visit guildtheatre.com.
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