Results for Stax

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
reviews
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
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Bonus Track Version)Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga available on iTunes

Spoon Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

The final album up for review is Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga from Spoon. That's right: five Ga's. The title gives us a tip to the band's attitude. As Greg notes, it seems like they're“intentionally screwing with us.”Taking a cue from Wire and The Talking Heads, Spoon has always specialized in a minimalist sound that is heavy on the rhythms and keyboards, and easy on the frills. That sound continues on Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, but Jim was pleasantly surprised to hear the band striking out by including a Stax/Motown sound. He's really excited about this album and gives it an enthusiastic Buy It. Greg agrees, adding that it's how the band uses different elements that makes the sound so special. Nothing lingers for too long, and nothing lacks that all important groove. He also gives Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 84
dijs

Jim

“Stranger to My Happiness”Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

This week, Jim pays tribute to Sharon Jones, a huge figure in the neo-soul revival, who died November 18 after a battle with cancer. With her powerful voice and electric stage presence, Jones was, according to Jim, the true inheritor of the legacy of fellow Augusta, Georgia native James Brown. She moved to Brooklyn where she ended up teaming up with The Dap-Kings, the finest soul / R&B backing band since Stax. Their 2013 song "Stranger to My Happiness" exemplifies her bravery against her illness. Ostensibly a love song, the lyrics also find Jones reckoning with mortality. She didn‘t wear a wig after losing her hair from chemotherapy, refusing to pretend to be anything she wasn’t. You can see that in a powerful video Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings recorded for“Stranger to My Happiness,”which is Jim's Desert Island Jukebox pick of the week.

Go to episode 575

Greg

“Pouring It All Out”Graham Parker

Jim and Greg continue to inspire one another. Last week Jim chose a track by Australian punk band The Saints (inspired by Greg's Australian pick the week before). Now this week Greg wanted to continue highlighting an artist who, like The Saints, kept soul music alive. British“Pub Rocker”Graham Parker emerged out of a very white, male scene in the 1970's. But he also incorporated the Stax and Motown sounds he grew up loving. Greg adds Pouring It All Out to the Desert Island Jukebox. And you know who else loves Graham Parker? Judd Apatow and Adam Carolla, to name a few. Pub Rock fans should also check out our interview with Nick Lowe.

Go to episode 408
news

Music News

Live Nation/Ticketmaster's practice of reselling, or scalping, its own tickets on the website TicketsNow drew a lot of negative attention from the likes of Bruce Springsteen and the New Jersey Attorney General. The company agreed to stop linking and limit advertising for TicketsNow as part of a 2009 settlement, but now they‘ve quietly begun resuming linking. They are trying to be more transparent, but it looks like the secondary ticket market isn’t going away anytime soon.

In an effort to take matters into its own hands, the jam band String Cheese Incident is taking a novel approach to spare its fans from paying Ticketmaster's loathed service charges. Fans and friends recently brought $20,000 in cash to the Greek Theater in Los Angeles and purchased tickets to the String Cheese show. They then brought the almost 400 tickets by hand to the group's headquarters in Colorado where they went on sale again, sans extra fees. Robin Hood would certainly approve.

One of the great all-time bass players, Donald“Duck”Dunn, died this week at age 70. Along with high school friend Steve Cropper, Dunn was part of one of rock's best rhythm sections. As a member of Booker T. and the MGs, he played alongside legendary Stax acts like Sam and Dave, Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding. He later worked with everyone from Bob Dylan to Eddie Floyd. To remember Dunn's trademark concision and swing, Jim and Greg play "Knock on Wood" by Eddie Floyd.

Go to episode 338