- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 18, 2001

The Blind Boys of Alabama may have begun their singing careers in the late 1930s, but the timeless quality of their voices makes their music sound a thousand years old.
"Music has always been our priority," says founder and singer Clarence Fountain, 71, while on the road. "We're singing songs people can relate to."
The Blind Boys, touring to promote their latest release, "Spirit of the Century," open for the Robert Cray Band at the 9:30 Club tonight.
The original group formed in 1937 from the glee club at the Talladega Institute for the Deaf and Blind in Alabama. Perfecting their harmonies and singing popular, traditional tunes of the day, the Blind Boys quickly made a name for themselves in the area.
"We decided in 1940 to go out on the road and sing gospel music," says Mr. Fountain, his Alabama drawl haggard from years of singing. "It wasn't the blues, it wasn't jazz, because they weren't popular in those days … it was gospel."
Since then, they've released more than a dozen albums on a wide variety of labels, with the makeup of the group fluctuating often. Though several members have died over the last few years, the remaining members have kept active with performing.
The Blind Boys have experienced a renewed interest in their music since Moby sampled their song "Run On For a Long Time" on his best-selling 1999 album "Play."
On "Spirit of the Century," the Blind Boys tackle a number of traditional tunes, such as "Good Religion" and "Amazing Grace," as well as modern numbers from Tom Waits, Ben Harper and even the surprising "Just Wanna See His Face," from the classic 1972 Rolling Stones album "Exile on Main Street."
"We showed people how they used to sing 40 years ago and then showed them how they sing now," Mr. Fountain says. "It doesn't matter as long as you sing and the people like it."

The Blind Boys aren't the only group representing the spirit of the south this week. Local band The Lost Trailers returns to the area after launching its first national tour this past summer, bringing along its southern-influenced rock-meets-funk-meets-country sound.
"Word has spread at a rate that we're really, really surprised by," says Geoffrey Stokes Neilson, singer-songwriter-guitarist, via phone in Georgia. "We've been blown away by the amount of people who know the words and are singing along during the performances."
For those unfamiliar with the group, its Saturday performance at the Grog and Tankard is a can't-miss opportunity. Every person who shows up will get a preview copy of the band's third album "Passport," which collects new material together with popular songs off the band's last two records.
It's also a concept album, in the vein of Willie Nelson's "The Red Headed Stranger," that pulls the songs together under one overarching narrative.
"It's a story about a kid who goes to New York City and gets disenchanted with urban life," Mr. Neilson says. "[He] goes on to journey across America, through the Southeast all the way to California, on a search to find himself."
The rootsy rock of the Trailers lends itself perfectly to a live venue, as keyboardist-vocalist Ryder Lee, bassist Cam McElroy bass, drummer Jeff Potter and Mr. Neilson have the ability to ignite an audience with their energy. The group is already working on new material unrelated to the "Passport" concept, including two songs written in response to the Sept. 11 attacks. One of the songs, "Where Are We Now?," is dedicated to a friend lost in the World Trade Center and was played at a recent benefit for victims in New York City.
"The reason we wanted to start a national tour was so that we could be an American band," Mr. Neilson says. "We want to be able to touch people."

The Family Values Tour, a staple of the rap-metal scene for the past several years, is a bit more, well, friendly this year. The 2001 tour features main acts Stone Temple Pilots and Staind, two bands whose sound is lighter (and its material more optimistic) than previous headliners, such as Limp Bizkit and Korn (whose music made the "family values" moniker very tongue-in-cheek).
That's not to say that heavy metal has left the building, but the hard rock of these two groups is more socially conscious than the "break stuff" mentality of Limp Bizkit.
"I just need someone to talk to/ You were just too busy with yourself/ You were never there for me to/ Express how I felt," Staind lead singer Aaron Lewis sings on "Fade." The crushing guitar riffs, pounding drums and wailing vocals of metal are still there, but the material underneath is far more mature than the work of Staind's peers.
In a similar vein, Stone Temple Pilots have softened their image since the days of grunge, as lead singer Scott Weiland has kicked heroin and the band is embracing a wider range of musical styles.
"Shangri La Dee Da," released in June, is a mellower record for the group, with fewer distortion-heavy, power chords and more stripped down acoustic guitars and harmonizing.
"You know, like a bottle of red [wine], I think this is us getting better and better with age," says guitarist Dean DeLeo.
The tour, rounded out by Linkin Park, Static X and Deadsy (all three whom are heavier-sounding than the headliners), comes to the MCI Center tonight.

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