Blind Boys of Alabama praise Australia's 'fresh' audiences

The Blind Boys of Alabama will play the 2013 Byron Bluesfest.
The Blind Boys of Alabama will play the 2013 Byron Bluesfest. Erika Goldring - Lionel Midford Publicity

THE one thing you cannot do at a Blind Boys of Alabama show is stand still.

The legendary American gospel group, formed more than 70 years ago, is known for its uplifting, joyful performances.

Their three and four-part harmonies are sure to lift any spirit and their energy, despite the band's age range of 40-something to 82, is infectious.

"If you like clapping your hands and doing a little dance and singing along and having a jolly good old time then the place to be is with The Blind Boys of Alabama," said drummer and singer Eric "Ricky" McKinnie.

The five-time Grammy Award-winning band returns to Australia in March, two years after they sold out the Sydney Opera House while on tour with Mavis Staples.

McKinnie is full of praise for Australia's "fresh" audiences.

"Every time we come to Australia we always love it," he said.

"The people are always so friendly. The main thing we like is the audiences are fresh. They enjoy us and we enjoy them."

Last time he was in the country, McKinnie was playing drums for The Blind Boys.

This time around he's singing up front with founding member Jimmy Carter and Ben Moore.

McKinnie has been filling in for the group's usual third singer Bishop Billy Bowers, who has been taking a break from touring due to illness.

"I have a great time up front," he said.

"I enjoy wherever I am as long as people can enjoy what I'm doing.

"It's good to be able to do a little dance and sing along and be hands free for a minute."

The band has collaborated with many artists over the years, including fellow 2013 Bluesfest performers Susan Tedeschi, Bonnie Raitt and Staples.

"I always enjoy seeing Susan and Bonnie," McKinnie said.

"They're our personal friends.

"They might come out and sing a song with us, who knows."

The group will play a variety of songs from their extensive back catalogue as well as from their latest album Take the High Road, which was released just after their 2011 tour of Australia.

McKinnie said the group had a lot on the cards for 2013.

"We're going to go to Europe and hopefully try to make our way over to Asia," he said.

"But the main thing we're looking forward to is coming to Australia."

The Blind Boys of Alabama play the Byron Bluesfest on March 29 and 30.

The band will also be playing Bluesfest sideshows with Allen Toussaint in Brisbane on March 28, Sydney on April 1 and Melbourne on April 3.

For more information and tickets go to

Topics:  bluesfest music music festival

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