Results for Mavis Staples

interviews

Mavis Staples

It's not often we get to share a room with a genuine national treasure. Jim and Greg were honored to speak with gospel and soul legend and Civil Rights icon Mavis Staples. (Greg is also the author of Mavis's 2014 biography I'll Take You There). Beginning her career at age eleven as the lead singer of her family band The Staple Singers, Mavis has inspired countless artists over the past half century.

Her father Pops Staples learned guitar at the feet of Charley Patton in Dockery Farms, Mississippi before moving to Chicago. There, he formed The Staple Singers, a gospel vocal group featuring his children – Pervis, Cleotha, Yvonne, and Mavis taking the lead. The combination of Pops's blues guitar, Cleotha's counterpoint, and Mavis's precociously powerful voice launched them into national attention with their 1956 hit "Uncloudy Day." Soon, the Staple Singers were at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, often serving as the opening act to Martin Luther King, Jr. (We'll cover that period in more detail in a second episode with Mavis).

The group had its greatest success once it signed to Stax Records and began recording with the famed session musicians in Muscle Shoals, Alabama on hits like "I'll Take You There." That's also when Mavis began her solo career – reluctantly at first, but still going as strong as ever today. Her latest album Livin' on a High Note found her working with songwriters like Nick Cave, tUnE-yArDs, and Neko Case. Mavis offers Jim and Greg an intimate look at growing up on Chicago's South Side, forming the Staple Singers' signature sound, meeting Mahalia Jackson, and collaborating with Curtis Mayfield and Prince.

Go to episode 593

Tweedy

This past July, Sound Opinions took the show out of the WBEZ studios and in front of a live audience at Chicago's Lincoln Hall. The impetus for a field trip? Tweedy, the new project by Wilco lead singer and founder Jeff Tweedy. The band features Jeff on vocals and guitar, Jeff's 18-year-old son Spencer Tweedy on drums, Liam Cunningham on keyboards, Jim Elkington on guitars & Darrin Gray on bass. Jeff and Spencer spoke with Jim and Greg about how the 20 song album, Sukierae, came together after Spencer played drums on One True Vine, the Jeff Tweedy-produced album by Mavis Staples. In fact, Spencer calls Mavis another“Grandma.”Sukierae came at a much-needed time for the Tweedy family; Jeff's wife, Sue Miller, began her fight against lymphoma. And her nickname provides the album its title. So what is it like to tour with your dad and play actual "Dad Rock"? What happens if Spencer dates a Wilco fan? And when can we expect new Wilco music from the now-20-year-old band? Tune in for answers to those questions, plus songs from the new record.

Go to episode 460

Kelly Hogan

You might not know the name, but chances are you've heard the voice. Kelly Hogan is best known as a backup singer for acts like Neko Case, Jakob Dylan, and Mavis Staples. If your spine's ever tingled listening to a Neko song, chances are you have Hogan's harmonies to thank. But on her new record, out on the illustrious ANTI- label, Hogan's the one out front. Hogan solicited tunes for I Like to Keep Myself in Pain from an impressive roster of songwriter friends - people like Andrew Bird, Vic Chesnutt, M. Ward, and Robyn Hitchcock. That Hogan can cover a Robyn Hitchcock song and make it her own gives you some idea of her interpretive abilities. She's also a big personality and consummate performer. She and the band stopped by the studio to play songs from I Like to Keep Myself in Pain. She explained to Jim and Greg how she started performing publicly and why her favorite songs are like "perfectly built little birdhouses."

Go to episode 346
specials

Remembering Prince

Prince Remembered

"Life is just a party, and parties weren't meant to last." Yet the party ended much too soon for music legend Prince, who died on April 21 at the age of 57 at his Paisley Park home and recording studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Volumes have been said about the late Prince Rogers Nelson in the past week, but Jim and Greg draw attention to aspects of his music and career that aren't acknowledged enough. Growing out of the Minneapolis funk scene, Prince refused to be boxed into a single genre, fearlessly blending funk, pop, rock, soul, new wave, and R&B to create a sound all his own. He was known as a guitar god, but could really play any instrument he touched and often was the only musician on his recordings. Prince carried on the Marvin Gaye and Al Green tradition in R&B of mixing the sacred and the profane, sex and salvation. On records like The Black Album, he created some of the most lascivious music ever, but at the same time, Jim and Greg argue he showed a deep respect for women. Not only did he mentor and collaborate with up-and-coming female stars, but he also was eager to help out his idols like Chaka Khan and Mavis Staples.

Prince was unafraid to explore psychedelia, especially in the crucial three album run of Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day, and Parade in the mid-80s. He spent the rest of his life toiling away at Paisley Park, churning out recording after recording – not without quality control issues. But in the past couple decades, Prince was defined by his unpredictable and often transcendent live performances. Prince was ahead of his time in recognizing the internet as a way to sell music directly to his fans without a label. But his greatest legacy will of course be his music, and his influence on generations of artists is immeasurable.

Go to episode 544
reviews
You Are Not AloneYou Are Not Alone available on iTunes

Mavis Staples You Are Not Alone

During this show Jim and Greg review some of this season's big new releases. First up is the latest from Mavis Staples. The iconic Chicago soul singer turned to neighbor and fan Jeff Tweedy of Wilco to produce You Are Not Alone. Greg calls Staples one of America's great singers. And all of the facets of her sound and personality are represented here. He gives the album a Buy It rating. Jim has been waiting for Mavis to make her masterpiece record that would tell the world how great she really is. You Are Not Alone is a fine effort, but the songs are nothing special, according to Jim. He worries that Tweedy was intimidated by Staples and didn't push her enough. For that reason Jim tells listeners to Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 249
We'll Never Turn BackWe'll Never Turn Back available on iTunes

Mavis Staples We'll Never Turn Back

Mavis Staples' new album, We'll Never Turn Back, is up next. Inspired by current racial violence and tension, the Staples Singers vocalist was joined by Ry Cooder, Jim Keltner, and members of The Freedom Singers to make an update of the civil rights music of the 1960s. This is a perfect fit for Mavis. Her father, Pops Staples, steered their family toward freedom songs, and eventually the Staples Singers became Martin Luther King, Jr.'s favorite group. The result is something that pays respect to the past, but is very relevant in the present. Jim gives the credit to Mavis. He thinks she is completely underrated and calls her a“national treasure.”He wishes that Mavis and the band were doing more shows in support of the album and gives it a Buy It. Greg goes even further by naming We'll Never Turn Back the best album of 2007 — and it's only May! He commands listeners to Buy It for themselves and everyone they know.

JimGreg
Go to episode 75
Livin' on a High NoteLivin' On a High Note available on iTunes

Mavis Staples Livin' On a High Note

Mavis Staples had a legendary career with her family's gospel and soul band The Staple Singers, which was a major part of the protest movement of the 1960s and scored huge hits for Stax in the 1970s. Mavis reinvented herself as solo artist in 2000s, collaborating on records with Ry Cooder and Jeff Tweedy. For Livin' On a High Note, she and producer M. Ward as a producer asked a variety of contemporary songwriters to write material for her to sing, including Neko Case, Nick Cave, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, and Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs. Jim loves how the best songs bring Mavis full circle by referencing on the Black Lives Matter movement. While the other songs are hit and miss, Mavis Staples is a“national treasure”and her voice is as powerful as ever. Jim is still waiting for her end career masterpiece, but this album is a definite Buy It. Greg – who literally wrote the book on Mavis Staples – points to We'll Never Turn Back as her masterpiece, but says this album is very good too. He loves what she does even with the lesser songs, like Vernon's generic love song, which she transforms into a moving address to her sister Yvonne Staples. In the middle of her 70s, Mavis Staples is doing some of the best work of her career.

JimGreg
Go to episode 536
Humanz (Deluxe)Humanz available on iTunes

Gorillaz Humanz

The virtual band led by Blur's Damon Albarn, Gorillaz, is back with the group's fifth album. While they may technically be a“fictional”band, their impressive record and concert sales are very real. Their new record, Humanz, features collaborations with artists like Mavis Staples, Pusha T, Jehnny Beth of Savages, Grace Jones and more. Jim thinks Humanz is another great and creative effort from Gorillaz. He thinks the guest cameos work well from track to track, and that Damon Albarn created an interesting, dystopian effort. He gives it a Buy It. Greg is also a big Gorillaz fan, and thinks that Albarn gets the best out of his guests, and particularly loves the cameos from new artist Benjamin Clementine and rapper Vince Staples. While he doesn't think much of the collaboration track from Albarn and“enemy”Noel Gallagher of Oasis, he thinks Humanz is a great end of the world party soundtrack. He gives it a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 598
One True VineOne True Vine available on iTunes

Mavis Staples One True Vine

Mavis Staples has released her 13th studio album called One True Vine. She tapped Wilco's Jeff Tweedy to produce for the 2nd time, but this time around, Jim says, he is not so awed by her. The material is better and the sparse production showcases her voice more. Jim says Buy It to this dark, quiet record. Greg, who knows a thing or three about Mavis Staples and Wilco, has admired all the singer's recent albums. And he thinks she's achieved one of the greatest second acts in rock history. He gives this“American treasure”a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 396
Keys to the KingdomKeys to the Kingdom available on iTunes

The North Mississippi Allstars Keys to the Kingdom

The North Mississippi Allstars also have a new album out, called Keys to the Kingdom. This album was written following the death of producer Jim Dickinson, the father of bandmates and brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson, and the songs are not only filled with emotion, but steeped in the sound of their youth – the blues of the North Mississippi hill country. They also collaborate with some of Dickinson's favorite musicians, including Mavis Staples. This is a great return to form for the band. Both Jim and Greg say Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 271
lists

The Best of 2007… So Far

Jim and Greg just couldn‘t wait until the end of the year to start picking their favorite albums, so they’ve decided to name their 2007 mid-year best.

Go to episode 81

Best of 2007

It's a critic and a music fan's favorite time of year. Jim and Greg run down their top albums for 2007. You can view their complete lists below.

For more end-of-year discussion, check out the Sound Opinions Message Board.

Go to episode 107

Best Albums of 2016…So Far

Greg and Jim just couldn't wait until December to talk about some of their new favorite albums. They discuss some of the best records of 2016 so far. Here are their complete lists:

Go to episode 553