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The Blind Boys Of Alabama Coming To California Center For The Arts

The celebrated gospel group The Blind Boys of Alabama, pictured here with legendary blues musician Taj Mahal, (center) will perform at the California Center for the Arts on December 23, 2014.
Facebook: The Blind Boys of Alabama
The celebrated gospel group The Blind Boys of Alabama, pictured here with legendary blues musician Taj Mahal, (center) will perform at the California Center for the Arts on December 23, 2014.
The Blind Boys of Alabama, Taj Mahal
The Blind Boys Of Alabama Coming To California Center For The Arts
The Blind Boys Of Alabama Coming To California Center For The Arts GUEST:Jimmy Carter is a founding member of The Blind Boys of Alabama

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is K P B S midday edition, I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You don't have to be a Scrooge to get just a little tired of the same old Christmas carols around this time of year. In the supermarket, the mall, on the television the same tunes that sounded great around Thanksgiving can start to grate on the nerves a bit. That's why finding new music to celebrate Christmas is a true holiday treat. One of the musical finds of this Christmas season is a collaboration between the celebrated gospel group Blind Boys of Alabama and legendary blues musician Taj Mahal, the album is called "Talkin' Christmas" and here is sample. (AUDIO). That's from the album talking Christmas I would like to welcome my guest Jimmy Carter, a founding member of The Blind Boys of Alabama, Mr. Carter welcome to midday edition. JIMMY CARTER: Thank you for having me. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The New York Times critics describes talking Christmas as righteous and funky; how do you describe it? JIMMY CARTER: Well, I describe it as just a good hand-clapping, toe-tapping song that gets you in the Christmas spirit. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You collaborated with Taj Mahal for the very first time on this album. What do you think his sound and personality brings to the group? JIMMY CARTER: Well, Taj Mahal, he is a great musician. He is a great singer. Also he is doing a whole lot on this record. He is singing and he is playing, you know, different instruments. Playing guitar, playing banjo, playing ukulele - he's doing all of it. So we just -- really to be able to persuade him to do this, it didn't take too much persuasion because we've been on shows with him before, so he knows The Blind Boys well. And, you know, he was very happy to make this recording with us. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me play a cut from Talkin' Christmas that Taj Mahal collaborated with The Blind Boys of Alabama on. It's called "What Can I Do". (AUDIO). That's Taj Mahal with The Blind Boys of Alabama. Their album is called talking Christmas and joining me right now is Mr. Jimmy Carter, a founding member of The Blind Boys of Alabama. You know Mr. Carter, The Blind Boys have been making music for a very, very long time. You started singing together, I believe, in the late 1930's when you all really were boys. What do you remember about the early days of the band? JIMMY CARTER: That's right. We went to the school for the blind in a little town in Alabama called Talladega and we started singing together, you know, 1939. And we just we sang around the school. We went to different local churches and -- but we started out, The Blind Boys started out professionally June the 10th 1944. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And so you have been making music and touring for about 60 years or so? JIMMY CARTER: A little more than that, yeah. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Wow. How do you manage to keep up your energy and enthusiasm to perform all of that time? JIMMY CARTER: Well, when people ask me that I tell them, you know, when you love what you do, we love doing this. We love to sing gospel music. We love to get out in that audience and let that audience feel what we feel, so I think that. And to get the response that we get, that motivates you. So I think when you love what you do I think that is our secret that is keeping us going this long. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You know, during all of that time, do you think gospel music has changed much? JIMMY CARTER: Well, it has changed. For example, when The Blind Boys started out they had nothing but an acoustic guitar, that's all they had. Now we have a whole band, guitar, drums, bass, keyboards all of that stuff. And then it's changed in this way too, because now you have what we call "contemporary" gospel music. So that's another kind, I don't particularly go for that, but that's just me. But we sing that too. As a matter of fact we do sing that because you have to change with the times when times change then you have to change too. You like to try to please everybody. We got some people that love contemporary music, so we have to sing it. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You have to change with the time. I'm speaking with Jimmy Carter, a founding member of The Blind Boys of Alabama we're talking about the new album with The Blind Boys of Alabama and Taj Mahal called Talkin' Christmas. Now, Mr. Carter, there is a theme that runs through your album about making the holidays a little less commercial and a little more holy. Let's hear a song called There is a Reason They Call it Christmas. (AUDIO). There is a Reason They Call it Christmas off the album Talkin' Christmas. Mr. Carter, is that one of the messages you're bringing with you on tour to maybe focus a little more on the spiritual aspects of the holidays? JIMMY CARTER: That's what we're trying to do. Christmas now has become so commercial. We're trying to bring Christ back into Christmas because that's what Christmas is really all about. We're talking about the Christ that was born on this day and, you know, we're trying to bring the message back to let the people know that this is what Christmas really, really is. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: There are six songs on this album Talkin' Christmas written by The Blind Boys. Where did the ideas for these songs come from? How do you guys collaborate to write songs? JIMMY CARTER: Well, we have a producer in San Diego by the name of Chris Goldsmith. He came to us and said, you know, all of these Christmas carols everyone knows them, let's write some Christmas music - so that's what we did. We all got together at his house and we sat down and we all just you know we were talking together and as we talked ideas, came to us. So we put those ideas on paper and that is how this Christmas record got started. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is this The Blind Boys first Christmas album? JIMMY CARTER: No it's not. It's the second one. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Do you like Christmas carols? JIMMY CARTER: I love them, yeah. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What is your favorite? JIMMY CARTER: I think Come Ye Faithful. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And is that on this album? JIMMY CARTER: No, it's not. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You're keeping that personal, huh? You'll be coming to San Diego just later this month. In fact you're going to be playing the day before Christmas Eve; how hard is that to tour so close to Christmas? JIMMY CARTER: It's pretty hard but we've done it before and we, you know, we've gotten used to it. So our last day is the 23rd of December, so we will do that and then everyone will go their separate ways on the 24th, Christmas Eve day. We won't have time to do much shopping. We'll do that after Christmas I guess. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: One last question for you, if I may Mr. Carter, talking to us about how long The Blind Boys of Alabama has been making music. What does music do for you that sustains you through all of that time? JIMMY CARTER: Well, you know, music is something that there is an expression that says music will calm the most savage beast. Music is something that is universal I don't care what kind of heart you've got you know something about music. So this is music is -- it keeps me focused on how good God has been to The Blind Boys. When we started out we didn't have no idea that we would be where we are today. We was just out there to sing gospel music. We wasn't looking for no accolades, or no awards or nothing, but we got them so we appreciate that. We thank God for it. And so we're going to just keep on and keep on and keep on. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to me. I've been speaking with Jimmy Carter, one of the very founding members of Blind Boys of Alabama. And The Blind Boys of Alabama will be joined by legendary blues musician Taj Mahal. They will be performing in San Diego on December 23rd at the California Center for the Arts Escondido. Mr. Carter, thanks for your time. JIMMY CARTER: Thank you, my dear. Thank you very much. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And we can hear another song from Talkin' Christmas. Do You Hear What I Hear. (AUDIO) Be sure to watch K P B S evening edition at 5:00 and again at 6:30 tonight on K P B S television and join us again tomorrow for discussions on midday edition roundtable that's on K P B S FM starting at noon. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh thank you for listening.

You don't have to be a Scrooge to get just a little tired of the same old Christmas carols around this time of year. The same tunes that sounded great around Thanksgiving, can start to grate on the nerves a bit.

That is why finding new music to celebrate Christmas is a true holiday treat. One of the musical finds of this Christmas season is a collaboration between the celebrated gospel group The Blind Boys of Alabama and legendary blues musician, Taj Mahal. The album is called "Talkin' Christmas!"

Corrected: September 29, 2022 at 3:55 PM PDT
Editors note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Taj Mahal would be performing with The Blind Boys of Alabama at the California Center for The Arts on December 23. We regret the error.
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