Today it was announced that the soul great and civil rights icon Mavis Staples is to release a brand new album on Anti Records in February, with the title track of the album being released in anticipation.
Next month the legendary Mavis Staples is set to follow hot on the heels of her 2015 EP Your Good Fortune with a brand new full-length album entitled Living On A High Note, set to be released on Anti Records. Staples, at the age of 76, appears to be having her own renaissance period: in the past seven years or so she has released two fine solo albums produced by Jeff Tweedy of the band Wilco, won a Grammy for her efforts on hauntingly beautiful ‘You Are Not Alone’, and has firmly cemented herself as a true icon of soul music.
Ward, musician and half of the She & Him duo along with the talented Zooey Deschanel, has produced Staples’ upcoming album, and it is set to feature songs written by today’s crop of soul and R&B stars, including Aloe Blacc, Valerie June, and Ben Harper. It’s a bold move from Staples, but one that is not without precedent: her pairing with Jeff Tweedy may have raised a few eyebrows at first, but the two albums they put out together, 2010’s You Are Not Alone and 2013’s One True Vine, stand up to anything released earlier in Staples’ career. In a statement picked up by Pitchfork, Staples said of her new album that:
“I’ve been singing my freedom songs and I wanted to stretch out and sing some songs that were new. I told the writers I was looking for some joyful songs. I want to leave something to lift people up; I’m so busy making people cry, not from sadness, but I’m always telling a part of history that brought us down and I’m trying to bring us back up.”
Now, at the age of 76 you might expect Staples to be taking things a little slower, concluding that she’s probably past her best. However, one listen to the first single of her forthcoming album would dispel that conclusion. Staples sounds as grand as ever; age has deepened her already gritty voice, but at the same time has given it a warmth that comes with experience. As producer, Ward plays the production pretty close to the work Staples did with Tweedy, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Valerie June makes a cameo as well, but it’s really all about Staples. She is a true icon of popular music, and may she continue to bless us with her superior gift of musical joy.