Almost Home, the new album from The Blind Boys of Alabama, comes almost 70 years after the Grammy-winning gospel quartet released their first single. The new collection contains songs by Valerie June, North Mississippi Allstars, John Leventhal, Marc Cohn and others, focusing on the journies of the group’s two surviving original members, Clarence Fountain and Jimmy Carter.
Carter may be approaching 90, but that just gives him decades of friends and collaborators to recommend to USA TODAY readers with his playlist below.
A Change Is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke
Sam used to read Western stories to the Blind Boys on the bus when we all toured together. Obviously, this song is one of the greatest of all time, both the writing and the singing.
I’m Hanging Up My Heart for You, Solomon Burke
We spent many nights on the road with Solomon. When we sang on his album in 2002, he cooked up some great sweet potato pie for us.
Hello Walls, Willie Nelson
This is one of Willie’s earliest hit songs, from his very first album. I like the melody; it’s old-school country.
Flume, Bon Iver
I sang a Bob Dylan song with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon on the album he produced for the Blind Boys. I like this because it refers to his mother, and I was close to my mother.
Southern Nights, Allen Toussaint
Allen was one of the finest fellows I ever knew and worked with. I know all about Southern nights and loved Glen Campbell’s version of the song.
Jesus, The Velvet Underground
The Blind Boys became friends with Lou and actually recorded a version of this song with him. It’s a beautiful song he wrote in the 1960s.
Christo Redemptor, Charlie Musselwhite
This song, which translates to “Christ the Redeemer,” is a real showcase for our great old friend’s harmonica playing.
Mary, Don’t You Weep, Aaron Neville
We have toured and worked with Aaron many times over the years. This is done in a gospel quartet style.
Give a Man a Home, Ben Harper
Ben has been a great friend of the Blind Boys. Picking a song of his was hard because I like so many. This is the first song of Ben’s I became aware of, and it’s one of his best.
Lord Protect My Child, Susan Tedeschi
Susan sings this Bob Dylan song with a lot of soul. I also like her guitar playing, which I think is underrated.
That’s Why I Write Songs, Jamey Johnson
Jamey became a good friend when he produced our Take the High Road. He’s a down-to-earth guy. I love his writing.
Let My Mother Live, The Blind Boys of Alabama
John Leventhal and Marc Cohn wrote this song off Almost Home. This one means a lot to me because it’s based directly on my life.