Randy Kohrs and the Blind Boys of Alabama

We’ve posted many times on Bluegrass Today about the skills and accomplishments of Randy Kohrs. He is an artist/businessman who possesses that rare combination of natural talent, dogged determination and entrepreneurial zeal so important to success in our increasingly decentralized music industry.

Kohrs is blessed with an agile and expressive voice, an admirable facility with the resonator guitar, and a knack for putting together a catchy tune with a memorable lyric. He is also an award-winning producer and studio engineer, whose Slack Key recording studio in Nashville is renowned both for its unique decor and its sonic purity.

As with any man of many talents, Randy finds his successes in turns, sometimes in one place and sometimes another. Right now, he is enjoying the fact that Can You Give Me a Drink, a song he co-wrote with LaTresa Smith and included on his Old Photograph CD in 2007, has been recorded by the legendary Gospel group Blind Boys of Alabama.

After more than 70 years as an institution, the Blind Boys continue to serve as ambassadors of southern black Gospel and spiritual music traditions since they were created by the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in 1939. Since that time they have captured almost every honor available to musical artists, and have performed and recorded around the world and in collaboration with a who’s who of popular music icons.

A chance encounter with country star Jamey Johnson when the Blind Boys were inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame last year led to the group deciding to make their newest album, Take The High Road, in Nashville, recording with some of the top names in country music like Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr., The Oak Ridge Boys and Vince Gill.

So how did a song from a Randy Kohrs project get to these renowned Gospel luminaries? Randy’s publicist, musical collaborator and (since last month) wife, Ashley Brown Kohrs explains.

“Kevin ‘Swine’ Grant, a popular session bass player and producer, co-produced Take The High Road. He called Randy one night, really excited, at about 11:00 p.m. and explained a little about the project. They were still looking for songs, though they’d already started tracking, and Swine woke up early that morning with Can You Give Me a Drink stuck in his head. He dug around and found the Old Photograph CD, listened to the song again, and pitched it to the Blind Boys, who loved it.

The next morning, Swine called Randy, told him to bring his guitar, and they tracked it. Randy also ended up playing on another song, too.

I remember how this song came about… Randy and LaTresa were scheduled to write one day. Lacking in ideas, Randy decided to look for inspiration. He picked up the Bible, randomly opened it and put his finger down on the page, landing on the story about the woman at the well, and the song was born.”

Ashley also told us that Randy was able to play on the CD release show on May 4 at Nashville’s Belcourt Theater, performing both with Jim Lauderdale (who also appeared on the record) and the Blind Boys as well.

Congratulations Randy for this latest milestone!