FAME Review: Mavis Staples - You Are Not Alone
Mavis Staples - You Are Not Alone

You Are Not Alone

Mavis Staples

Available from VillageProduce.com.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Bob Gottlieb

Mavis Staples has arguably the finest and most evocative voice in popular music today. Her voice has only gotten more expressive as she has gathered experience singing on the stages of the world, in the times she has seen. From her younger years singing with the family group, The Staples Singers, headed by her father, the legendary Pops Staples, and made up of her brother and sisters, through working with the likes of Bob Dylan, Levon Helm, and Prince to touring with her sister Yvonne and her recent breath taking recording with Ry Cooder, We'll Never Turn Back, and now this new work with Jeff Tweedy, has all shown a willingness to take chances and stretch. She is a singer that has lived her songs and thus has the emotional depths to make the songs her own and sing them with the solid conviction of someone who has survived and grown from the experiences. She did this disc with Jeff Tweedy producing at Wilco's studio Chicago studio (home town to both of these artists) Tweedy wrote two songs for the disc. Mavis is accompanied by her touring band of several years. There is Rick Holmstrom on guitar and vocals. Jeff Turmes, bass and vocals, Stephen Hodges on drums and Donny Gerrard background vocals. The sound is augmented by Jeff Tweedy on guitars, bass and vocals; Patrick Sansone, keys and vibes; Mark Greenberg on vibes and keys; and background vocals by Kelly Hogan, Nora O'Connor and Richard Parenti.

This is a disc that has captured the path of this iconic singer with songs that hark back to ones her father, Pops Staples, wrote as well as ones from a diverse group that includes Randy Newman, Reverend Gary Davis, Allen Toussaint, Little Milton and John Fogerty. As different in times and background as these writers are, these songs are all made special and taken to heart by this singer and the musicians and sound as if they were all written just for her—even Newman's Losing You, which is a song of a defeated person (never known this to be her in the 30 plus years I've had the good fortune of knowing her) but she takes the song to show that even from painful loss there is good that can come if you know how to use it. The songs are a mixture of the sacred and secular and the sound is completely modern. This is another gem by this singer who only gets better, takes music to new heights, sometimes by showing the lowest lows, without losing the sacred roots even with the passing of years. That life though ever fresh and new has its roots in the hallowed soil of past.

Track List:

  • You Don't Knock (Pops Staples/Wesley Westbrook)
  • You Are Not Alone (Jeff Tweedy)
  • Downward Road (Pops Staples)
  • In Christ There is No East and West (traditional; arranged by Jeff Tweedy)
  • Creep Along, Moses (traditional)
  • Losing You (Randy Newman)
  • I Belong to the Band (Rev. Gary Davis)
  • Last Train (Allen Toussaint)
  • Only the Lord Knows (Jeff Tweedy)
  • Wrote A Song for Everyone (John Fogerty)
  • We're Gonna Make It (Little Milton)
  • Wonderful Savior (traditional)
  • Too Close To Heaven / I'm On My Way to Heaven Anyhow (Prof. Alex E. Bradford Jr./Brad Pathway)

Edited by: David N. Pyles


Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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