Published Nov 13, 2017Throughout her illustrious 48-year solo career, Mavis Staples has never stayed musically stagnant, melding her radiant sound with some of the best musicians of the era including Curtis Mayfield, Prince and Ry Cooder. But after last year's M. Ward-produced Livin' on a High Note, the 78-year old soul legend returned to work with her most frequent collaborator, Jeff Tweedy.
Written and produced entirely by the Wilco frontman, Staples' 16th full-length is a classy, enlightening look into the politics and issues of post-Trump America, showing the civil rights activist assertively in her wheelhouse. But even if this ten-track, 35-minute LP didn't boast such insightful lyrics like, "If all I was was black, looking at you, you might look past all the love I give" ("If All I Was Was Black") or "when they tell their lies, spread around rumours, I know they're still human, and they need my love" ("We Go High"), it would still stand as an achievement in Staples' discography. Mavis's delivery here is impassioned and insightful, and it's paired nicely with Tweedy's raw and imperfect guitar playing and his son Spencer's perfectly hands-off percussion.
If All I Was Was Black is another late-career winner from Staples, an album that perfectly captures her gentle, loving and elegant way of making a political statement without sacrificing the passion she's built her career upon. (Anti)