Mavis Staples – If All I Was Was Black

Mavis Staples - If All I Was Was Black

Mavis Staples has again joined forces with songwriter-producer Jeff Tweedy for a new album entitled If All I Was Was Black, out this November 17th.

The history Mavis recalls from her early years touring with her family as The Staple Singers, the prejudice, ugliness and danger, well it’s all still here. In response, the singer has delivered If All I Was Was Black, ten songs about contemporary America today, a present day filled with ghosts of the past. “Nothing has changed,” Mavis remarked in early August, just days before neo-Nazis marched with swastika flags in Charlottesville, Virginia, as a young woman was murdered. “We are still in it.”

If All I Was Was Black is Mavis’ third collaboration with songwriter and producer (and Wilco frontman) Jeff Tweedy. Their first partnership in 2010, You Are Not Alone, won a Grammy Award for Best Americana album. Their second effort together, One True Vine, was a Grammy nominee. But If All I Was Was Black marks the first time Tweedy has composed an entire album of original songs for Mavis’ legendary voice and a nation she’s uniquely poised to address.

In the wake of the current race-baiting and rhetoric of exclusion appearing not just on the streets, but issuing from statehouses and even the White House, Mavis and Tweedy found themselves completely in sync and wanting to say something about the fissures dividing the country. “We’re not loving one another the way we should,” Mavis confided, as if sharing the secret to happiness, or something better. “Some people are saying they want to make the world great again, but we never lost our greatness. We just strayed into division.”

Explaining why he decided to tackle the state of the union, Tweedy said, “I’ve always thought of art as a political statement in and of itself—that it was enough to be on the side of creation and not destruction. But there is something that feels complicit at this moment in time about not facing what is happening in this country head on.”

The lyrics are occasionally shot through with anger. “I have a mind to bury them whole, when they go low,” Mavis sings on “We Go High.” “There’s evil in the world, and there’s evil in me” opens the first verse of “Try Harder.” “Oh, they lie, and they show no shame” adds a harsh undercurrent to “Who Told You That,” an anthem against accepting the status quo. Unsettling musical elements wind their way through the record, too, from the abrasive guitar distortion of “Try Harder” to a descending bass line that signals danger on “Little Bit.”

Photo: Chris Strong

Despite all this, the mood ring on Mavis’ 2017 outing is set to love, which runs through and over the fury and despair. The songs move less like a hammer and more like the tide, with Mavis countering the anger with an eye toward the work that is required to bring change. She is singing the world as it is, but also a way forward. Mavis is sure that the answer is to lift each other up. She’s not embracing the anxious hesitation of respectability politics but the possibilities of love.

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the Mavis Staples – If All I Was Was Black link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

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RICHARD THOMPSON – Still (Proper Records PRPCD131)

StillThe new album from Richard Thompson – Still – is scheduled to be released on June 29th 2015 although one can pre-order now and I suggest you do! It is a fabulous album that has wonderful new compositions from this renowned and gifted singer/songwriter and consummate guitarist. He has the BBC Lifetime Achievement Award and Mojo’s Les Paul Award and to top that – Richard was been awarded the OBE in the 2011 New Year Honours List. Recently the Americana Music Association honoured him with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting.

Still was recorded in just nine days in a Chicago studio, Richard Thompson had Wilko’s Jeff Tweedy at the helm producing the album and various musicians from both of their past endeavours to be involved on the album. No ideas were preconceived before they all met in the studio and the album recording evolved naturally.

Thompson’s distinctive vocals are evident from the opening track, with ballads, haunting melodies, Celtic drumming, and his own rock and roll. All there in true RT style.

My favourite tracks are ‘She Never Could Resist A Winding Road’, ‘Beatnik Walking’, ‘Long John Silver’ – a belting rocky audience participation song at a gig I reckon – Celtic drumming on ‘Pony In The Stable’ and ‘No Peace No End’. This album has a unique pedigree and every track is a winner, so make sure you add this stunning album to your collection.

The Richard Thompson Electric Trio are touring the UK in August and September 2015 to promote this album, and I can’t wait to see him do justice to this album and his amazing back catalogue, at a live gig!

Jean Camp

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: www.richardthompson-music.com

Label website: www.proper-records.co.uk

Richard Thompson – new album Still

RTStill

The renowned guitarist and songwriter Richard Thompson will release Still, an album of new music produced by Jeff Tweedy, on June 29, 2015 via Proper Records.

Still will be available in several configurations including a twelve-track CD, a twelve-track double 180-gram vinyl album and a deluxe CD package that includes a five-song EP from a previously un-released session.

Still was recorded in a two-story rehearsal loft in Chicago over the course of just nine days with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy at the helm, backed by several longtime players from both Thompson’s and Tweedy’s bands. Thompson enlisted Tweedy’s production skills in an effort to shake up his own creative approach to making records.

“It turned out be really good idea,” says Thompson. “Jeff is musically very sympathetic. Although some of his contributions are probably rather subtle to the listener’s ear, they were really interesting and his suggestions were always very pertinent.”

“I really tried to not have any preconceived ideas,” Thompson says of working with Tweedy, “but of course you do. I tried to shove those to the back of my mind. You don’t really know until you turn up — what the studio is like, what the gear is like. It ended up being a nice unfolding of surprises.”

The key to Still’s emotional resonance is a set of gripping new Thompson compositions rich with his signature mix of trenchant insight, gallows humor, and keen empathy for characters at the brink of being overcome by their emotions, their pasts, or themselves.

A recipient of BBC’s Lifetime Achievement Award and Mojo’s Les Paul Award, Richard Thompson was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 2011 New Year Honours List. The Americana Music Association also recently honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting. Robert Plant, REM, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt and many others have recorded Thompson’s songs.

Taken as a whole, Still is a powerful dispatch from an acknowledged master who remains unafraid to put himself into demanding new environments – its title reflecting that resilience and seemingly endless resourcefulness. “Or,” Thompson adds slyly, “it could be read as ‘Is he still performing? I thought he died years ago.”

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.


Artist’s website: http://www.richardthompson-music.com/