55 years into her
recording career, Mavis Staples is making music that ranks with the best she’s ever
done. After Ry Cooder put her richly deepened alto in the most natural setting
she’d had in decades 3 years ago for We’ll
Never Turn Back, she returns with her fellow Chicagoan, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy
at the helm. Where Cooder had her tell the story of the Civil Rights movement,
Tweedy just hands her a great selection of traditional hymns, Gospel, and pop
songs, and two of the best songs he’s written to date.
With her crack touring band led by guitarist Rick Holmstrom
(who plays with the reverb of the late Pops Staples and the bluesy, rootsy
imagination of Cooder himself) behind her, Staples is clearly having a ball
singing of her faith in God and mankind. Whether tackling the universal harmony
theme of “In Christ There Is No East or West” or the catchy plea for
understanding in Tweedy’s “Only the Lord Knows,” Mavis Staples fills each song
with the breath and breadth of life itself.
Are Not Alone,” “Wrote a Song For Everyone” STEVE PICK