STYLE: Gospel RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 141863-21281 LABEL: Anti 72062 FORMAT: CD Album ITEMS: 1
Reviewed by Tony Cummings
I have long insisted that Mavis Staples is the greatest living vocalist. Now, even at age 73, the gospel soul legend can demonstrate an extraordinary shaded palette where every phrase of her rich contralto ranging from featherlight delicacy to gasping whoops gives her music tangible power. Mavis won a Grammy in 2010 for her last collaboration with producer Jeff Tweedy and here again the Wilco man shows he's the perfect choice to lift the one-time front lady of the Staple Singers up to the classic status of old. Tweedy plays virtually all the instruments here, apart form some subtle percussion from Tweedy's son Spencer, and the whole album has a deft, semi-acoustic feel perfect for bringing out the still rich timbre of Mavis' voice while the song selection here is masterly. Kicking off the album with "Holy Ghost", the song first recorded by Minnestoa indie band Low, was a master stoke while the left field idea of that Funkadelic's "Can I Get To That" funk gem and turning it into what soul expert Lois Wilson has called "a rafter-raising hymnal" is breathtaking. There are four Tweedy originals with "Jesus Wept" particularly powerful, Tweedy clearly using the phrase found in the biblical account of the death and resurrection of Lazarus to explore some deep losses of his own. Elsewhere there's a low slung blues version of the Staples' "I Like The Things About Me" (penned by the late Staples' patriarch Roebuck "Pops" Staples) on which Tweedy interjects bursts of dirty lead guitar while the country jaunt of Nick Lowe's "Far Celestial Shore" also works surprisingly well. All in all, a magnificent album from one of Christian music's great treasures.
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