Mavis Staples: We Get By (ANTI-) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Mavis Staples

We Get By


May 24, 2019 Mavis Staples Bookmark and Share

For the better part of seven decades, the inimitable Mavis Staples has served us all as prophet and priest. At times, the gospel legend stands and sings from the periphery with a harsh prophetic voice, calling us all toward our better selves. At other moments, she’s wrapping arms around the listener, a trusted pastoral figure in which we can confide.

Staples’ newest album, We Get By, visibly wears the accoutrements of both positions. On the eve of her 80th birthday (this July), Staples knows the value and importance of her work, and she’s not interested in confusion or complacency. The electric charge of opening track “Change” sets an urgent tone from the outset: “Get it straight/Be sure that you hear/Gonna change around here.” The only response is to listen for further instructions.

Yet Staples is not interested in distilling much more of a message than that. The answers to our myriad cultural problems of “bullets flying, mothers crying” is found in that community of our better selves, and multiple songs on We Get By summon the assembly together. The title track features the celebrated alto singing, “Day by day, line by line/If you don’t have yours, you’ve got mine.” Lest you doubt your own offerings on this communal table, Staples sings, “I never needed anyone like I need you.”

At one point on “Anytime,” Staples describes her vocational work perfectly when she sings, “I’m a lover/I’m a fighter.” She’s nurtured us and challenged us. She’s identified the good work to be done and then locked arms to help us accomplish the task.

“We’ve come too far to be lost/So many bridges yet to cross,” she sings on “Brothers and Sisters.” Amen, Ms. Staples. Amen. (

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10


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April 23rd 2020

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