STYLE: Gospel RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 178537-29104 LABEL: Anti 76702 FORMAT: CD Album
Reviewed by Lins Honeyman
Showing no signs of slowing down despite having just turned 80, the latest release from Mavis Staples is yet another worthy addition to the veteran gospel and R&B singer's hefty solo back catalogue. This time around, it's Grammy-winning artist Ben Harper's turn to be star producer and he keeps things delightfully basic with only boxy drums and bass, a gritty electric guitar and the occasional backing vocalist as backing to prove that Mavis' trademark low register vocal performance doesn't need any bells and whistles to make it shine. Having written all the songs, Harper succeeds in tapping into Mavis' career-long quest to highlight the civil rights of the disadvantaged and the central theme here is typified by the opening track "Change" which demands, in particular, an end to the gun violence that currently blights America. Reminiscent of her old group the Staple Singers, "Brothers And Sisters" continues in the same vein with a call for solidarity amidst the trouble in the land - the line "we can't trust that man" being an obvious and timely comment on the incumbent president - whilst the self-explanatory "Stronger" helps to maintain Mavis' resolute stance in characteristic fashion. The measured bravado found in these songs is tempered by some vulnerable moments with the likes of the title track - a duet with Harper - communicating the struggles of a life with a quiet dignity whilst the sombre "Heavy On My Mind" is strikingly spiritual. Having been in the business for an incredible 69 years, it's testimony to Staples' skill as a communicator of truths - not to mention the sad fact that injustice and prejudice still persist - that she's still turning out quality and hugely relevant releases like this well into her autumn years.
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