Come December it will be fifteen years since we lost Pops Staples, patriarch of The Staples Singers, yet this year we get to be re-introduced with his music all over again with the forthcoming release ‘Don’t Lose This’, and the first single of the album ‘Somebody Was Watching’.
Back in 1999, Pops Staples was working on what would be his final recordings before he became sick. The tapes remained with Mavis until, after producing two excellent albums with Jeff Tweedy of the band Wilco, she passed them over to him to help finish the album. The video below shows Mavis Staples talk about the record (“I’ll be so happy…when it comes out”), and its clear that this is an incredibly personal and cathartic record for her to be involved with.
The first single ‘Somebody Was Watching’ has all the grit and might you might expect from The Staples Singers; Staples’ ageing voice creeks over a sparse but pounding production. Indeed, his voice is deeper and slower than when the Staples Singers were in their prime – but recording this well into his eighties, it is actually quite remarkable. The guitar licks are classic Staples, with the drums and bass familiar to anyone who has listened to Mavis’ last two albums, whilst the background vocals emulate the Staples sound well, supporting Pops’ weakened voice.