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Mavis Staples - We'll never turn back

As musical activists in the 1960s civil rights movement, the Staple Singers were powerful voices for equality and change. And more than 40 years after Pops's daughter Mavis spent a night in a West Memphis, Arkansas, jail at the behest of a racist cop, she still remembers the terror of the experience, as well as the counsel of Dr. Martin Luther King. That episode is at the centerpiece of "My Own Eyes," one of the most moving offerings on this collection of songs of racial struggle in the '50s and '60s, produced by guitarist Ry Cooder and featuring backing from the original Freedom Singers and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Throughout, the album proves both emotionally chilling and spiritually uplifting. On J.B. Lenoir's "Down in Mississippi" and Marshall Jones's "In the Mississippi River," for example, Cooder makes fine use of pounding percussion and snaky electric guitar to capture the danger and fear inherent in the Deep South at the time, while the title song and "Jesus Is on the Main Line" draw on gospel and the traditional framework of church hymns to promise positive solutions. Staples, who adlibs on several cuts, connecting the injustice of yesterday to the continuing marginalization of blacks in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, remains a remarkable performer, employing a throaty sensuality that rises from a deep well of tremulous emotion. If her album is musically uneven at times, her artistry and strength continue to shine as undimmed beacons. --Alanna Nash

What Mavis has chosen to do in this album is to reinterpret a number of classic anthems from the Civil Rights movement as well as including several compositions of her own, all of which are impeccably rendered by an extraordinary voice which may have lost some of its youthful shine but has gained a weary wisdom and lost none of its fierce commitment to tell it like it is, without frills but plenty of class. Whether or not you share Staples' beliefs or consider yourself a long time fan of the Staples Singers, this is a phenomenal set of songs. If Mavis' voice wasn't enough the album is permeated by the magic of Ry Cooder's production who could not have been a better choice to give these songs, both, their gravitas and their groove. This is Cooder at his best, laying a sound as dense and ominous as a Louisiana swamp or as angelic as Gospel longings, as the songs require. Another musician worthy of note is drummer Jim Keltner, Ry's compadre for so many years, who inhabit these songs with a powerful beat that will resonate in your chest even after the album's over. All in all, this is not only a great album but a necessary one. What these songs may reawaken or introduce you to are words that have not lost their significance nor their relevance.



Anonymous said...

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Hope all is well in your world and thanks again.

Members: C & Ras John said...

It seems the link was not dead, just acting weird, so I re-upped. Thanks for the support!

Garreth said...
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Members: C & Ras John said...

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