Key Tracks: “Jesus Wept,” “One True Vine”
Mavis Staples, 73 years old, proves on her thirteenth studio album that she can still make any song sound gorgeous.
Mavis Staples originated as a member of the Staple Singers, the legendary gospel-soul group. But after the family stopped recording music, Mavis came into her own through her solo work. “One True Vine” finds her reconnecting with the man who produced her previous record, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy. The songs on the album are primarily covers, ranging from Nick Lowe, to a surprising cover of a Funkadelic song, and a cover of a song from the alt-rock band Low (that’s only a few weeks old, and was also recorded by Tweedy). Tweedy composed two of the tracks, “Jesus Wept” and “One True Vine,” two of the best songs on the album. Staples’ voice sounds as strong as ever, as she takes sometimes painful and emotional lyrics and turns them into beautiful songs.
Tweedy’s work on the album, as with Staples’ previous work, is intentionally minimalistic. A majority of the tracks are just vocals and acoustic guitar, with an occasional inclusion of drums or other instruments. Tweedy played all of the instruments on the album except drums (which were played by his son), which adds to the low-key feel. The focus of the whole album is on the vocals. “One True Vine” is a short and quiet album, stripped away of any distractions. Staples still has a beautiful and strong voice, and the album is a strong and creative blend of gospel and soul because of it.
-By Andrew McNally