In a week saturated with papal posturing and pomposity it is a joy to have the opportunity to consider Ms Staples' truly joyous expression of a faith of more modest proportions.
As a creature without a soul I may not possess the necessary credentials to evaluate performances of such obvious comittment but what passes for spirit at the core of my hairy heart cannot but respond with warmth and affirmation to a work of such simple, uncluttered beauty and consummate musical refinement.
Ms Staples voice is remarkably intact for a septuagenarian; it has inevitably deepened and darkened with time but this only serves to enchance her impeccable ability to give life to the words she sings. The interpretations of these thirteen fine songs are full of light and shade; pointed emotion and unbridled fun. They are framed with subtle understanding by Jeff Tweedy's marvellously focussed production and the unfailingly sympathetic and highly skilled instrumental contribution of her cracking band.
The treasures are many! Ms Staples rips up the rug and delivers a raucous performance of Rev. Gary Davis' 'I Belong To The Band', belting out the lyrics with extraordinarily rasping and robust power! No less so her ripe-to-bursting rendition of Pop Staple's 'Downward Road'; a call to arms to drive the devil down!
Allen Toussaint's 'Last Train' gets a laugh-out-loud treatment! With Ms Staples "....huffing and puffing and chugging like a choo-choo train (CHOOO CHOOO!)" it is simply impossible NOT to love her! This lady is certainly no "Cuckoo Brain"!!
The stripped-down bluesy arrangement of Randy Newman's 'Losing You' is one of the album's several highlights. The quality of her diction weighs every word; the sublime melody is perfectly understood and delivered with brutally honest world-weary feeling. Stunning!
If it were within me to change my wicked ways Ms Staple's passionately performed acapella rendition of 'Wonderful Saviour' might well stand as a stepping stone on the road to my own potential redemption but whether I believe it or not Ms Staples remains an artist with the power to make us consolidate or reconsider our position with regard to the mysterious lure of the hereafter. If there is a heaven there is no doubt that she will be there one day - but not just yet please!