Track of the Day: 'Amazing Grace' by the Blind Boys of Alabama

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Via reader Keith Wells, this version of a timeless Christian hymn is more of a mashup than a cover—and a pretty ingenious one:

Hey Chris, now that I’m finally nearing the end of my surgery convalescence (BTW – thanks for this thread, which has helped entertain me through this period of just. sitting. around.), I hope to turn your readers on to a group that everyone should know about.

The Blind Boys of Alabama are a gospel group that has been around since 1944 and actually consists of blind singers from Alabama. Amazingly, two of the original members are still recording and touring. (They were about 9 years old when the group formed.) They’ve won multiple Grammys, toured the world, sung for presidents and recorded with many world-famous musicians. The album they recorded with Ben Harper, There Will Be A Light, is a must-hear.  They sing and play gospel that has a blues-rock-soul influence, and it’s an absolute joy to behold. (Their sartorial resplendence is a big plus.)

Anyway, when we saw them in concert the first time, my head almost exploded when they performed “Amazing Grace” to the melody of “House of the Rising Sun”!  The minor key and slower tempo pushes the mood of the song deeper into weary and bittersweet, like a survivor just glad to still be alive.

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