STYLE: R&B RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 24192-12951 LABEL: Anti 68302 FORMAT: CD Album ITEMS: 1 RELEASE DATE: 2007-04-30 RRP: £16.99
Reviewed by Mike Rimmer
In the '60s and '70s, Mavis Staples sang on some of soul's most sublime sides. As part of the Staples Singers, her music seemed to be the soundtrack for the American civil rights movement mixing together spirituality, huge swathes of hope and a social conscience that rang true with her fans. Supported by the songwriting and guitar playing of her father Pop Staples, the group created a series of classic albums and singles and her voice was at the fore. Yet in the last 20 years Mavis has never managed to create music that has come close to her earlier material despite working with some of the biggest names including Steve Cropper, Prince and Curtis Mayfield. Her last album 'Have A Little Faith' saw the beginnings of a return to form and then came this excellent set. In guitarist Ry Cooder, she's found the perfect musical foil and someone who can understand how to help her make an artistic statement every bit as potent as her legendary releases. Drawing on her own musical tradition, she revisits civil rights songs and draws on her gospel roots and the results are stunning. Cooder creates the perfect swampy vibe and his guitar fades in an out of the musical picture adding the perfect flourishes to top each song. To be honest it's a feast of great songs and hard to pick out highlights though the story telling of "Down In Mississippi" draws on her own experiences of prejudice and celebrates how things have changed. "Eyes On The Prize" has similar earthy production whilst that great protest song "We Shall Not Be Moved" is slowed down to a defiant slow burning pace. Gospel songs like "This Little Light Of Mine", "99 And ½" and "Jesus Is On The Main Line" are all excellently executed and in such a way that an audience wider than gospel lovers will be able to connect. Staples is working in a similar fashion to how the Blind Boys have won a fresh audience in recent years. On the strength of this, there's no reason why this renaissance in her musical fortunes shouldn't continue.
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