One True Vine – Mavis Staples

Mavis

It’s hard to find useful things to write about artists whose careers span an interval like that of Mavis Staples. After all, at 73, she’s been recording for over thirty years. Her new album is a restrained set of gospel numbers in her signature style. While she does cover a track by Funkadelic (“Can You Get to That?”), and “I Like the Things About Me” listens more like a female Jimi Hendrix is covering it, the tracks are, largely, in an acoustic southern gospel style, and cover the associated thematic territory. Fortunately, Staples is a craftsman and Jeff Tweedy, who produced the album, clearly understands how to show the material in a usefully fresh light. The best part of this album is that it shows restraint—in the ballad “One True Vine,” for example, there are plenty of opportunities to simply take off and run the melody through the stratosphere, but that’s not Staples’ choice. Rather, it’s grounded, a little raw, and soulful.

Rating: ★★★★☆

-DMK