In praise of Mavis (and liner notes)

Another interesting nugget from this month’s issue of Mojo magazine is this, from Ian Anderson. The leader of Jethro Tull was asked: “Vinyl, CD or mp3?”

“I prefer the convenience aspect of mp3s. Scratchy old vinyl? No. But I miss the album covers.”

Agreed on all counts, although vinyl has its charms.

I also like mp3s, obviously. Having bought albums via download, I’m glad to have the music, but I miss reading whatever the artist or archivist has to say about what I’ve bought. I miss knowing about the backup musicians. I miss knowing who wrote the songs. I miss the visuals.

Last week, I bought Mavis Staples’ great new album, “We’ll Never Turn Back.” I have 12 wonderful soul/R&B/gospel cuts.

That ought to be enough, but it isn’t. I miss those liner notes. Oh, sure, I can go to Mavis’ Web site, or to her label’s site and click around and get something close to liner notes. But it’s not really the same.

That said, the important thing here today is digging Mavis’ music.

“We’ll Never Turn Back” is a terrific collection of new and vintage civil rights songs, all passionately, soulfully done. It’s produced by Ry Cooder and features Cooder on guitar and mandolin, Mike Elizondo on bass and piano, Jim Keltner on drums, Joachim Cooder on percussion, the Freedom Singers and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. It’s easily the best album of the year so far.

Here’s what Mavis had to say about it:

“With this record, I hope to get across the same feeling, the same spirit and the same message as we did with the Staple Singers — and to hopefully continue to make positive changes. We’ve got to keep pushing to make the world a better place. Things are better but we’re not where we need to be and we’ll never turn back.”

Lest you think it’s churchy or preachy, here’s what a friend — who happens to be a minister — had to say about it.

“This is a smokin’ album! Best blues album I’ve heard in a long time and Mavis really cooks.”

Agreed, but enough talk. Time to listen.


“Eyes On The Prize,” Mavis Staples, from “We’ll Never Turn Back,” 2007. (With Ladysmith Black Mambazo on background vocals)

“Turn Me Around,” Mavis Staples, from “We’ll Never Turn Back,” 2007. (With the Freedom Singers — Rutha Harris, Charles Neblett and Bettie Mae Fikes — on background vocals.)

Go here for “On My Way,” another download from the album.


Filed under May 2007, Sounds

3 responses to “In praise of Mavis (and liner notes)

  1. You’ve peaked my interest in “mojo ” magazine. If I can find one on the newstand somewhere…I will definitely check one out.
    Oh man!…I used to spend hours going thru my parents albums. Reading them and thinking about the cover, etc. Plus many times i would find extra junk in it that was really cool.
    My dad has Pink Floyd’s “DSOTM” album…and it had a huge poster included inside along with the album…and a nive photograph of something.
    A person really got their money’s worth back then.
    And that Led Zepplin album with that spinner wheel was a trip too.
    I can imagine how many “hippies” would spend the evening tripping and spinning that wheel.
    Anyway…it seems that with progress…my generation has given up as much as we have gained.
    Drop by some time!

  2. Mavis is one of the headliners at Waukesha BluesFest Aug. 10th & 11th. She’ll be there on Sat. the 11th.

  3. Pingback: jefitoblog

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