Thursday, 16 May 2019

Mavis Staples - We Get By, album review

Change, But Not the Spirit of Mavis Staples

As with If All I Was Was Black reviewed here, Staples attaches her wonderful gutsy vocal to wonderful gutsy production, like the dirt gospel-blues of opener Change, and this is followed by a Motown riff-start to Anytime, another blues-infused funk of a song.

On third We Get By, Staples is joined by Ben Harper, who wrote the songs on this album, in a slowed soulful take on how to deal with change by enduring – their paired vocals adding a sonorous depth to the account of strength in perseverance. Next Brothers and Sisters is another funk number and this too is about change and the need for change – positive change: the theme embraced in the certainty of something’s got to give and one thinks, naturally, of a civil rights call to change which has, to a degree, been realised, but in so many others has simply atrophied to its original baser roots.

Heavy on my Mind rolls around with the blues of a reverbed guitar foundation – and this is solid lament about pain and suffering and, yes, another fight. That Staples has such a sense of perseverance aged 80, and after what she has seen in the nasty past and the nasty now, is of great credit to her soul, musically and spiritually. The song Sometime is driven by its verbs of give and need and cry and pray as well as everybody’s got to change sometime, so the theme continues. Long may it.

Mavis and Ben

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