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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mavis Staples - One true voice, 24 Jun 2013
By 
Red on Black - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: One True Vine (Audio CD)
One of the high points of recent years for those with a love for "real music" was the pairing together of veteran blues/gospel singer Mavis Staples who enlisted Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, a fellow native of the mid West Capital Chicago to produce the Grammy-winning "You Are Not Alone". This was one of the finest albums of that or any year and Staples blues take on the double pairing of "Too Close To Heaven/I'm On My Way To Heaven Anyhow" was so deep it was almost primal. What great news then to see the two re-unitied and producing what is for all intents and purposes a follow up but with an even stronger gospel base. Staples is now well into her seventies and her voice remains an instrument which undoubtedly has the firm backing of the Lord providing its divine inspiration. It is by no means perfect, sometimes falters and there is the odd blemish but all this adds to its raw power rather than detracts from it. The mood of the album is subdued but infused with raw emotion. Tweedy's production assists this by stripping back the arrangements almost to bare boned acoustics. It is not completely susprising bearing in mind his own recent production duties with slow core masters Low, that Tweedy starts off Staples with a cover of one of their most recent songs the ethereal country of "Holy Ghost". The pattern of this song devised by Duluth's trio most famous band works perfectly for Staples voice and it is a brilliant start. Even better is the menace that Tweedy introduces into the old spiritual "Every step of the way" and that voice infuses it with an emotion that most singers strive for but never achieve. Much more surprising is the sprightly take on Funkadelic's "Can You Get to That" which does on initial hearings appear slighty out of place but eventually fits the album like a glove.

Mavis Staples voice can range from a churchy low register to an hurricane which could tear the roof off. This album tends to play to the former element in more restrained acoustics of songs like "Jesus Wept" and the lovely slow funk of an album highlight the cover of Nick Lowe's "Far Celestial shores" which has Tweedy's musical stamp all over it. The more traditional gospel songs here also work brilliantly not least "What are they doing in heaven today" and another song associated with Doc McKenzie and the Hi Lites "Sow Good Seeds". Perhaps if there is one slip on the album its the rather standard version of "I like the things about me", but Staples is to much of a great artist to sustain a prolonged slip. The final two songs on the album comprise a great acoustic guitar driven "I woke up this morning (with my mind on Jesus) " that shuffles along beautifully and finally the albums title track brings it all to conclusion with a fitting showcase of deep slow blues which should really see a statute erected in Washington DC to this great singer while she is still alive to tell her how much she really means to us all.

It is rumoured that Staples is working on her memoirs and she has a treasure torve of stories and inspiration to share. She recently talked of her love for Dr Martin Luther King and stated on the wider musical front "that I feel so honoured that I have worked with Curtis Mayfield, Bob Dylan, the greatest poets in the world. So I've had just a wonderful, wonderful life. If I leave here tomorrow, I have nothing to ask for, I have left with everything done that I wanted". This is a fine reflection but we must hope that there remains a good few years left in the tank of this remarkable singer because any one who makes music this good over such a long time deserves a few more decades to come.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Essence Of Gospel, 18 Dec 2013
By 
Angel Delta (Southsea Hants) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: One True Vine (Audio CD)
Mavis Staples is the very essence of gospel and soul music with her grace and passion a touchstone for others to embrace. In this splendid collaboration with Jeff Tweedy she continues upon a journey that began in 1969 as the lead singer with The Staples Family.

Staples and Tweedy first worked together on "You Are Not Alone" in 2010 and the three Tweedy originals show how sympathetic he is to her strengths. She opens up her heart on the soulful title track

"I was dead at first/I had done my worst/And you came to me"

with Tweedy's bass guitar in perfect counterpoint and a simple arrangement of drums and percussion. "Jesus Wept" has a sombre and haunting beauty and might just be the most perfect track on the album and reminiscent of the work of Leonard Cohen. It is a lyrical and musical evocation of pain and longing with Wurlitzer, clarinet and exquisite backing vocals from Kelly Hogan and Tiffany Francisco.

The third Tweedy original is found in "Every Step Of The Way" a bass and guitar filled gospel song with Mavis offering an intense and deeply personal reading. Meanwhile Tweedy and Donny Gerrard contribute quirky vocals on a foot tapping and memorable reading of George Clinton's funkadelic "Can You Get To That".

"Holy Ghost" showcases Mavis's charismatic voice with a trinity of female vocalists and a gentle Wurlitzer offering hope and inspiration. "Far Celestial Shore" is typical Nick Lowe, lighter in tone than much of the album but remaining faithful to its spirit. There are two songs within the public domain, the moving "What Are They Doing In Heaven Today" and the spiritual "Sow Good Seeds" where the lyrics are central to the concept and theme of the album.

With the glorious vocals of Mavis Staples and the production and arranging skills of Jeff Tweedy this is a deep mine but one that overflows with sensations of wisdom, peace and hope.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One True Vine: Mavis Staples - Music from a far celestial shore?, 11 Nov 2013
By 
Victor (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: One True Vine (Audio CD)
When I first heard Mavis Staples' 2010 release `You are not alone', I was bown away by the majesty of the album, the powerful vocals matched with an impressive production and an honest faith that imbued every note. I had looked forward mightily to a follow up release, and it is finally here. And it is another powerful and beautiful piece.

The tone is a little more downbeat than the previous release, there is a hint of melancholia hovering around the songs. This is still a gospel album however, and the sense of faith still pervades, and every now and then (as with the perennial favourite `Woke Up This Morning With My Mind On Jesus') Mavis takes it up a gear and lets her joyful side shine through. Mavis is a great singer, and every syllable she utters carries an emotional punch.

Of equal importance I feel is the production, from Wilco's Jeff Tweedy. The production is rich without being lush, and, like Mavis' voice has'plenty of bottom' as my granny would say. It perfectly matches the voice, being subtle and understated for most of the time, supporting Mavis' singing, but occasionally bursting out with a little bombast.

It's a perfect pairing of producer and singer, and the combination has provided us with another great album. 5 stars, and respect to Mavis for her huge artistry that just shines through here.
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5.0 out of 5 stars For anyone with the slightest bit of love for Mavis, 9 Dec 2013
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This review is from: One True Vine (Audio CD)
Mavis Staples has been a legend for such a long time, she may have forgotten that she is one, or maybe she doesn't hold much regard for this kind of title anyway.

At any rate this album is the sound of an artist, unaffected, and in complete control of her gift. Her voice and personality are front and centre throughout - low but tough, vibrating and powerful. Jeff Tweedy's production is under-stated but all the better for that. The sound is light and folky. There isn't the electric urgency of Pops's guitar (that some people may still be missing), but the arrangements do not disappoint. There are countless moments of sublime vocal surprises, subtle changes of pace and dynamics, and instrumental breaks bursting into life with fuzz guitar, or percussion. The songs are great too - her version of Low's 'Holy Ghost' becomes a devotional hymn, her covers of Washington Phillips 'What are they doing in heaven?' and Blind Roosevelt Graves 'Woke up this morning with my mind on Jesus' don't have the wild exuberance of the 1930s originals but they get Mavis paying tribute in her own style - and making this listener wonder how so much power is generated from such basic seeming musical contributions; it is truly mysterious. 'I like the things about me' is a song she used to sing with her dad and the kind of song that only someone with Mavis's straight talking honest could probably get away with, but you have to believe every word. It represents the spirit of this album - Mavis's honesty.

There was surely no time spent in the production of this record worrying about how to construct it as a piece of art, in a way to appeal to the serious music critic's judgment. It is simply someone supremely talented trusting herself, her gift and her judgment. The songs and the sound together represent a kind of self-portrait of the woman and anybody with the slightest bit of love for Mavis is going to enjoy this record very much.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mavis goes from strength to strength, 11 Nov 2013
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This review is from: One True Vine (Audio CD)
Like a good wine, Mavis gets better with age. Apart from her fantastic "Live at the Hideout" album, this may be her best yet in terms of consistency, although i think all of her more recent recordings are fantastic.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Something different, 4 Nov 2013
By 
R. Cox "Rob C." (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: One True Vine (Audio CD)
Most of the songs have quite a spiritual theme but despite that, or because of it, this album is worth a listen. The singing & lyrics seem quite heartfelt & while it may not get a party started, it definately is ideal if your in a reflective mood.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE RICH ANOINTED VOICE OF MAVIS STAPLES, 21 Sep 2013
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This review is from: One True Vine (Audio CD)
I thought it was really special. I heard one of the tracts on a preview of a sports show and felt the song touch my heart. it was showing Gods love for people, Mavis has a rich anointed voice.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully simple sound, 9 Sep 2013
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This review is from: One True Vine (Audio CD)
Her voice is just beautiful and the message is powerful. I love this CD and have already played it over and over.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gospel, 28 July 2013
By 
P. Jaynes "blues man" (Tredegar, Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: One True Vine (MP3 Download)
As a big fan of Mavis Staples, the songs on this CD certainly lived up to the previous CD's purchased.
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