After winning a Grammy for his soulful ballad “Walking in Memphis,” Marc Cohn solidified his place as one of this generation’s most compelling singer-songwriters, combining the precision of a brilliant tunesmith with the passion of a great soul man. Rooted in the rich ground of American rhythm and blues, soul, and gospel and possessed of a deft storyteller’s pen, he weaves vivid, detailed, often drawn-from-life tales that evoke some of our most universal human feelings: love, hope, faith, joy, heartbreak.
Cohn followed up his platinum-selling debut with two more releases in the 1990s, at which point Time magazine called him “one of the honest, emotional voices we need in this decade” and Bonnie Raitt declared, “Marc is one of the most soulful, talented artists I know. I love his songs, he’s an incredible singer, and I marvel at his ability to mesmerize every audience he plays for.” Raitt, James Taylor, David Crosby, Graham Nash, and Patty Griffin all made guest appearances on Cohn’s early records for Atlantic, as his reputation as an artist and performer continued to grow. In 1998, Cohn took a decade-long sabbatical from recording, ending in 2007 with Join the Parade. Inspired by the horrific events following Hurricane Katrina and his own near fatal shooting just weeks before, Join the Parade is his most moving and critically acclaimed record to date.
Blind Boys of Alabama
Hailed as “gospel titans” by Rolling Stone, the Blind Boys first rose to fame in the segregated South with their thrilling vocal harmonies and roof-raising live show. They released their debut single, “I Can See Everybody’s Mother but Mine,” on the iconic Veejay label in 1948, launching a seventy-year recording career that would see them rack up five Grammy Awards (plus one for Lifetime Achievement), enter the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, collaborate with everyone from Mavis Staples and Stevie Wonder to Prince and Lou Reed, and perform on the world’s most prestigious stages. It would be difficult to overstate the Blind Boys’ influence on their contemporaries and the generations that came after. The New York Times said that they “came to epitomize what is known as jubilee singing, a livelier breed of gospel music,” adding that “they made it zestier still by adding jazz and blues idioms and turning up the volume, creating a sound . . . like the rock ’n’ roll that grew out of it.”
“When the Blind Boys started out, we weren’t even thinking about all these accolades and all that stuff,” founding member Jimmy Carter told NPR. “We just wanted to get out and sing gospel and tell the world about gospel music.” Mission accomplished!
Seeing the Blind Boys of Alabama in concert is part living history, part concert, all uplifting experience . . . the best moments come when the group joins forces for stirring harmonies.
Aside from the glorious ‘Walking in Memphis,’ Marc Cohn is filled with evocative, reflective songs that have stood the test of time.