Real World Records - 2002 - 48 minutes

Despite the fact that they've been singing gospel music together for more than 60 years and have a combined age that reaches well into three figures, the remaining Blind Boys - Clarence Fountain, Jimmy Carter and George Scott - are still a force to be reckoned with. 'Higher Ground', the follow-up to their Grammy Award winning 'Spirit of the Century', showcase voices and harmonies that still sound as great as ever on a mixture of gospel standards, self-penned tracks and secular songs that they've invested with devout spirituality.

Building on the crossover success of 'Spirit...', the Blind Boys have chosen to applying their vocal chords to classics by Stevie Wonder ('Higher Ground'), Aretha Franklin ('Spirit in the Dark') and Jimmy Cliff ('Many Rivers To Cross'), backed throughout by the pedal steel of Robert Randolph and his Family Band. Ben Harper lends his guitar and voice to a soulful version of Curtis Mayfield's 'People Get Ready' and George Clinton's Clinton's 'You and Your Folks' is melded to the 23rd Psalm.

But the cracks are showing. Beside the freshness of their previous album, 'Higher Ground' feels a little tired, a little creakier and, although he sings on this record, recent live appearances have been minus the deep rumble of George Scott's baritone - but live is where the Blind Boys still excel. Listen to 'Higher Ground' for the basics but Clarence Fountain and Jimmy Carter are still on the road with their band - catch them while you still can.

Caroline Hennessy

Tracklisting: People Get Ready - Spirit in the Dark - Wade in the Water - Stand by Me - The Cross - Many Rivers to Cross - Higher Ground - Freedom Road - I May Not Can See - You and Your Folks/23rd Psalm - I Shall Not Walk Alone - Precious Lord