Mavis Staples – You Are Not Alone, produced by Jeff Tweedy [Album Review]

by Woody on October 5, 2010

For many, the name Mavis Staples conjures images from The Last Waltz, the film that documents The Bands final concert. The beautiful footage of The Staples Singers performing “The Weight” with The Band served as my introduction to Staples and I have long since been a fan. More than thirty years and countless albums have passed since that performance, but with her latest solo release, You Are Not Alone, the 71-year old Staples reminds us that her voice is still one to be reckoned with.

Released earlier in the fall and produced by Wilcos Jeff Tweedy, You Are Not Alone presents 13 songs. Although the albums lyrical content is certainly of the gospel tradition, the arrangements effectively bridge a variety of genres. Tweedys influence is strong on the acoustic guitar filled title track and “In Christ There Is No East or West,” which are both suggestive of Wilco circa Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. While “Creep Along Moses” and “Wrote A Song For Everyone” both have a decidedly blues feel.

The albums overall appeal and effectiveness, however, are derived from Staples voice, the quality of which appears to have strengthened with age. Throughout the album, she sings with a depth, power, and warmth that seem increasingly rare in music today. It is these qualities that first captured my attention many years ago, and that make this album a perfect soundtrack as the days continue to get colder and the nights longer.

Video: Mavis Staples singing “You Are Not Alone” with Jeff Tweedy on guitar.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

MP October 5, 2010 at 6:13 am

Mavis’ voice was made to sing gospel music. What makes this record so fantastic is the choice of songs. Wrote a Song For Everyone gets me every time I listen to it.

DBTChicago October 5, 2010 at 9:27 pm

not heard this album. my guess is it’s amazing. mavis staples is amazing, and i think jeff tweedy is amazing behind the scenes. uncle tupelo is one of my favorite bands of all time, and tweedy no doubt had a big impact on that music. i just didn’t like his songs. when the band split, i sided with Jay Farrar and Son Volt. i think the reason Tweedy became such a big success is his production. he knows what sounds good. good for him.

oz October 6, 2010 at 6:55 am

Wow. I sided with Tweedy in that breakup. I’m glad we didn’t run into you guys on the street. Could have been awkward.

If you don’t like Christian/gospel overtones in your music, this album won’t resonate. It is incredible, though.

Woody October 12, 2010 at 8:02 am

This disc puts me in a good mood whenever I listen to it. An absolute gem. Creep Along Moses is one of my favorite tunes this year. Lifts me up every time I hear it.

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