Mavis Staples

Livin’ on a High Note


Feb 11, 2016 Issue # 56 - Best of 2015 - Father John Misty and Wolf Alice Bookmark and Share

"I've got friends and I've got family/I got help from all the people who love me."

The inimitable Mavis Staples opens her latest spirited (and spirit-filled) album, Livin' on a High Note with an ode to the gathered talent around her. On this album, it's quite a list. M. Ward sits at the helm of this special album of songs written explicitly for the legendary singer by a group that includes Neko Case, Nick Cave, tUnE-yArDs, Justin Vernon, Ben Harper, Benjamin Booker, The Head and the Heart, and many more.

Such a stellar cast would typically take the spotlight, but Ward makes sure everything (and everyone) remains in orbit 'round the 75-year-old artist. The girl who got her start singing in churches back in 1950 stands behind the pulpit on inspired tracks like "If It's a Light" and "One Love." She's both preacher and pastor, declaring truth and delivering encouragement.

Staples has long contributed to justice's greater songbook, and she's prepared a few more entries for the catalog here. "Action" laments that she's "tired of crying" and asks, "Who's gonna do it if I don't?" Even more direct is "MLK Song," a sparse acoustic cut which closes the album with Staples' musical thesis. "If I can help somebody as they pass along/If I can cheer somebody with a word or song/If I can show somebody that they're traveling wrong/Then my living will not be in vain."

For 65 years, Staples has been faithful to the cause, one she'd say is beyond her. It's the reason we continue to gather around and listen to this unparalleled talent.(

Author rating: 7.5/10

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