Mavis Staples

Mavis Staples - Livin' On A High NoteAnti-With Livin' On A High Note, Mavis Staples set out to record an.

Mavis Staples – Livin’ On A High Note

With Livin’ On A High Note, Mavis Staples set out to record an optimistic and joyful album. The soul icon turned to Portland singer/songwriter M. Ward for production, and a cast of indie rock stars to write songs. There’s something strange about commissioning a bunch of mostly white musicians to write for someone whose history is so linked to the civil rights struggle, especially at this particular moment, but to the songwriters’ credit, they all sound like they were eager to adjust their approaches to her style of gospel soul.

The songs contributed by Bon Iver, Neko Case and Aloe Blacc are all decent, but the best moments come courtesy of the less obvious fits, like Nick Cave and Tune-Yards, who both find effective ways of balancing the serious and cheerful. The production is restrained, leaving plenty of space for Staples’s rich vocals, although some songs feel a bit too clean and reserved. It’s all very pleasant but lacks the fire and passion we want from her. Nevertheless, it’s always a pleasure to let Staples’s effortlessly warm voice wash over you.

Top track: Action

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