Collaboration industry gains another strong contribution
Nowadays, music is all about collaborations, the zanier the better. For example, rock band Bring Me The Horizon decided to make a Eurodance-style track with electro-pop singer Grimes in January. Another good one is rock legacy, Zak Starkey, choosing to make a reggae label. And now, the newest addition to the collaboration pool is potentially the most unorthodox yet: singer-songwriter Marc Cohn and gospel group The Blind Boys of Alabama with their new album Work To Do.
The Blind Boys have by far the more colorful career of the two. Named because all its members are in fact blind and from Alabama, the group has been performing uplifting gospel tunes for nearly 80 years. Sure, a couple of members have either passed away or retired, but that doesn’t mean the spirit burns any less bright. Although Cohn’s reputation pales in comparison, it is by no means uninteresting: he was a longtime songwriter for other artists before releasing a solo album in 1991 and scoring a hit with the Graceland ode “Walking In Memphis.” The album won him a Grammy, and he’s had a solid career since, except in 2005 when he was shot in the head. But luckily; he recovered fully from that.
The music itself, surprisingly, works quite well. Cohn’s soft rock, piano-driven sound, and husky voice fuses neatly with the Blind Boys’ rougher edges, handclaps and slick harmonies. The songs are a collection of both artists’ old hits, and all sit on various edges of the spectrum described above. The gospel is strongest on the foot-stomping church anthem “Walking In Jerusalem” and the bluesy “Baby King,” while Cohn and his piano takes center stage on his jams “Ghost Train” and “Listening to Levon.” There’s also a ten-minute long improve jam on Cohn’s “Silver Thunderbird,” which involves the two collaborators trading vocal and instrumental riffs. The highlight, though, is a cover of the aforementioned “Walking In Memphis.” It was already a strong song with plenty of feeling, but it gets a massive upgrade with the Blind Boys adding their fun ad-libs and harmonies behind Cohn’s soulful voice. Another fun part is that all the songs on the back half of the album are played live.
Overall, for those of you looking to enjoy another pairing of two quality artists: Work To Do is another one to check out.