You Are Not Alone
Before I even peeled the cellophane off of Mavis Staples’ new album, I decided to set myself the challenge of reviewing it without using the word “soulful” anywhere in what I would write. But, hell, from the first song I knew I’d have to give up that objective because this is a big bowl of soul, with the soulful voice of Staples singing a plenitude of soulful songs in an album dedicated to the memory of Mom and Pops Staples, the progenitors of the soulful noise she keeps alive here, with the spot-on soulful help of Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, an unexpected cross pollination that brings out the best Staples has in her. It’s gospel with hints of blues, and a whole lot of heart. If you’re a devout Christian, that might help you like this album, but you don’t have to be a believer to believe in the power of songs like “I Belong to the Band,” or “Don’t Knock.” On those songs and others, Staples will stir your soul because, when it comes to soulfulness, the Staples Singers wrote the book, and Mavis is still reading from that text. If you can listen to this whole album without rising up out of your chair, you’d better check to see if you still have a pulse. Or a soul.