Picks and Pans Review: I Brought Him with Me
Clarence Fountain, a youthful 64, has been a powerful force in the gospel world for better than half a century. He started singing with friends from Alabama's Talladega Institute for the Deaf and Blind in 1937, made his recording debut with them (as the Blind Boys) 11 years later and, it's been said, sang during shows with such passion that he caused audience members to swoon with the Lord's spirit. In the late 1980s the secular world finally caught on to the group's spirited fervor when they starred with actor Morgan Freeman in the Broadway musical "The Gospel at Colonus," and now the trendy House of Blues nightclub chain, which has ventured into radio and TV, has rediscovered Fountain and selected him and his brethren as the second release on their newly formed recording label.
It was a fine choice. "I Brought Him with Me," which Fountain & Co. recorded over a three-night stint in West Hollywood last January, is touted as their first-ever live recording, and its gritty, revival-style, I-dare-you-not-to-get-up-and-move enthusiasm captures Fountain in peak form. His gravelly baritone is at its best when he goes all out as on such classics as "Rain" and "Do Lord," which features a typically impassioned appearance by blues singer Koko Taylor. And backup singers George Scott (the other original Blind Boy still in the lineup) and Jimmy Carter turn Pete Seeger's campfire sing-along, "If I Had a Hammer," into a scorching pledge of redemption. Blues statesman Solomon Burke also checks in at the close. Though this is not the Fountain of youth, all in all, it rates an A-men. (House of Blues Music Company)