Mavis Staples : The Gospel According to Jeff Tweedy
Their first meeting was just as it should be: at The Hideout club in Chicago. Mavis Staples, the illustrious queen of modern gospel and longtime member of The Staples Singers—a woman who has been performing 60 years and watched the world turn several times—and Jeff Tweedy, a musician who has helped reshape and reinvigorate rock and roll in his groundbreaking band Wilco.
On paper, it might seem like an unlikely pairing. Where was the intersection between church-born music like “I’ll Take You There” and “You Don’t Knock,” with the boundary pushing aspects on albums like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born? Surely there would be genre collusions that could end in an apples-and-oranges scenario, sending both sides going back to the drawing board. In practice, nothing could be further from that: You Are Not Alone is a work of stunning strength and vision and makes it seem as though these two Chicago residents are candidates for the separated-at-birth squad.
Even today, Mavis Staples is shaking her head how it all happened. “Jeff came out to our show at this funky club on the North Side of Chicago,” she says. “He came upstairs and we met. After the show he came back and congratulated us—very nice. We were recording a live album that night. Two or three weeks later my manager called and said, ‘Mavis, Jeff Tweedy wants to produce your next album.’ I still couldn’t believe it. When I got off the phone I just said, ‘Thank you, Jesus.’ I knew it was a blessing.”
The great spirits often work in mysterious patterns, but this time they had their timing just right. Mavis Staples has traveled a long and often challenging road. Her father, guitarist Roebuck “Pops” Staples, built The Staple Singers around his son and three daughters in the early ‘50s, teaching them to lead with faith and never give up. Their musical journey took them through an endless array of experiences, from singing with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on freedom marches in the early 1960s, tagged as “God’s Greatest Hitmakers,” to the heights of pop stardom during the ‘70s with mega-hits like “Respect Yourself.”
There were some rocky years in the ‘80s and ‘90s before Prince signed Mavis to his Paisley Park label and released two solo albums. But through it all, her voice has remained a deep-seated instrument of soul, sounding like an impassioned weapon of love for all mankind to learn from.
When Tweedy and Staples teamed up last year, the woman felt she’d found a new true path. “He came to the South Side and we talked,” she recalls. “And what we had in common immediately was we’re both family-oriented, which made me feel really good because Pops had always instilled in us that family is the strongest unit in the world, something that no one can mess with. I was so thrilled we’d be working together because I put Jeff Tweedy on a high pedestal and felt he knew what I was about.”
Their collaboration seems almost blessed from the start, as Tweedy was a longtime fan of Staples. “I have almost everything she’s ever recorded and I dug back through very thoroughly when I was given this job to do,” says Tweedy. “I thought that if I refreshed myself about where she’s been, it would help her figure out where she wanted to go. I wanted to be sure that we were making a record that she really wanted to make.”
Beth Hart shares the opening track from her latest album, Bang Bang Boom Boom, live at Relix.
Jamie Lidell sets up in the Relix boiler room and delivers a tune from his 2005 album Multiply
Duane Trucks is happy to announce his new project, King Lincoln. Watch them perform “Coffee” live and acoustic at Relix’s Online-Video Coordinator’s loft in Williamsburg.
Here’s another song from Crystal Bowersox’s new record All That For This, live at Relix.
WYATT share a song in the famed Relix boiler room.
Goodnight, Texas share a song from their latest studio album, A Long Life of Living, live at Relix.
Warren Haynes performs a solo, acoustic version of “Railroad Boy” and explains how he adapted the traditional Celtic song for Gov’t Mule, backstage at the Hangout Music Festival.
Australia’s Alpine recently made their NYC debut at the Relix office with this song from their new album A is for Alpine.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
- Daft Punk: Random Access Memories
- Visions of Bonnaroo Thursday (ALO, Jack Johnson, Polyphonic Spree, Allen Stone…)
- Deer Tick Share "The Rock"
- Win a pair of passes to The NINES Festival
- Robert Hunter Will Return to the Stage for Eight Shows
- Mumford & Sons’ Ted Dwane Shares Photo, Update
- Jack Johnson: Bonnaroo Song, Mumford Cover, "Mudfootball" with Preservation Hall Jazz Band
- The Making of Pretty Lights’ A Color Map of the Sun
- Interlocken Confirms Daily Lineups, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Punch Brothers, Keller & The Keels and More Added
- Mumford and Sons Cancel Bonnaroo Show, Summer Tour
- Ed Helms: Bonnaroo, Banjos and a Bit of Phish
- Robert Hunter Will Return to the Stage for Eight Shows
- Tedeschi Trucks Band Share New Song
- Warren Haynes to Play Jerry Garcia’s Wolf on Symphony Tour
- Patty Griffin in Boston
- Jack Is Back: Jack Johnson Talks Bonnaroo, ALO and New Album
- Doctor’s Orders: So what should we call the Super Ball IX Newspaper?
- John Kadlecik Posts Statement on Bob Weir’s Collapse
- "I Wanne Be In moe.": The Latest Volunteers
- Bob Weir Escorted Off Stage During Furthur Show
- Furthur Cancels BottleRock Show as Bob Weir Is Out Of Commision
- Vote for Your Favorite "I Wanne Be In moe." Contestant
- Doctor’s Orders: What’s Your Favorite Furthur Song? (Win Copy of Relix Signed by Phil and Bobby)
- On The Verge Poll