By Josette Keelor -- firstname.lastname@example.org
This weekend the 49th Shenandoah Summer Music Festival will kick off with The Blind Boys of Alabama performing at the Orkney Springs stage Friday with special guest Deanna Bogart. Singer/songwriter Shawn Colvin will perform Saturday.
"I'm looking forward to it," Jimmy Lee Carter, founding member of the Blind Boys of Alabama, said by phone recently.
The band, which began in 1939, last performed at the festival in 2007, according to the festival's executive director, Dennis Lynch.
Since its last performance in Orkney Springs, the band has released four albums. Last year's "Take the High Road" was the band's first country-inspired album.
Carter said he and the other band members also have a variety of gospel, soul, R&B and rock music planned for their upcoming performance.
Despite his successful career so far, Carter said he has not reached the point yet where he thinks he's "made it."
"Still looking for something else," he said. There have been plenty of highlights, though.
"Been to the White House three times," he said. The band has performed for the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. "Those were great highlights," he said.
They also have five Grammy awards, four of them in consecutive years since 2002, for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album. The fifth, in the same category, came in 2009.
"That's something, too," Carter said. "All that is good."
As for the future, he said, "Just continue to sing until God says that's it."
Until then, he's heading to the valley, he said. "When the Blind Boys leave," he said, "[it] will never be the same. We're glad to be there."
Colvin, who will perform Saturday with special guest Kat Edmonson, said she's looking forward to making her first trip to the valley.
"I've never played that festival before ... and it sounds beautiful," she said in a recent phone interview.
Well known for her 1998 Song of the Year and Grammy-winning "Sunny Came Home," Colvin said her favorite moments so far have been talking with people who inspire her, like Jackson Browne and Judy Collins.
"There's so many at this moment," Colvin said. "... Those are my favorite, I think."
Her latest album, "All Fall Down," coincided with the release of her autobiography "Diamond in the Rough," which was published by William Morrow/Harper Collins in June.
Planning a tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland with longtime friend singer/songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter this fall, Colvin said the release of her first album, "Steady On," in 1989 was a defining moment for her. The album won her a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1991.
The success of "Sunny Came Home" came as a surprise.
"That was a lot of fun, and nothing I ever expected," she said.
"I [still] sing it. I like that song," she said. "I was always the same before and after."
The Blind Boys of Alabama will perform at 8 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $35 for reserved pavilion seats, $30 for adult lawn seats and $10 for child lawn seats. Shawn Colvin will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $33 for reserved pavilion seats, $28 for adult lawn seats and $10 for child lawn seats. Gates open at $6. For more information, visit www.musicfest.org.