If All I Was Was Black

If All I Was Was Black

by Mavis Staples

CD

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Overview

The year 2017 has been full of political unrest and growing racial division in the United States, but for good or ill, Mavis Staples has seen days like these before. As a teenager, she was a member of the Staple Singers, who in their days as a gospel group were close friends and allies with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as the struggle for civil rights was at its peak. They also experienced more than their share of violence and hostility as an African-American family band touring in the Deep South in the late '50s and early '60s. Mavis Staples was too strong to let hatred and narrow-mindedness break her when she was a twenty-something, and at the age of 78, she still isn't about to back down. Released in 2017, If All I Was Was Black finds Staples once again collaborating with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, who produced the sessions and wrote the bulk of the songs, and while the lyrics tend not to focus on the specifics of the chaos that's marked the time it was made, it's definitely an album intended to speak to troubled times. As a woman of deep spiritual beliefs, Staples is the ideal vehicle for these songs, which often deal with hatred, inequality, and indifference while making clear that love and understanding have the capacity to heal America's wounded spirit. Staples' vocal style here is informed by equal parts vintage gospel and classic soul, and together they fill these messages with strength, compassion, and a much-needed sense of hope. The lyrics sometimes reflect Tweedy's usual tropes as a writer, but Staples gives them a musical and emotional force that sets them apart. Her voice is in splendid shape for a septuagenarian, still supple and able to navigate the twists of the melodies while sailing confidently over the arrangements that fuse indie rock with the feel of '70s soul. And if this set of songs is a bit short on specific answers to our problems, well, "We Shall Overcome" never explained how that would happen either. What's most special about If All I Was Was Black is the way Staples and her collaborators confront the challenges of a distraught world while filling the listener with the belief that all is not lost, that we can get past bad times and build a better future if we try. Quite simply, this is an album America needs.

Product Details

Release Date: 11/17/2017
Label: Anti
UPC: 0045778755721
catalogNumber: 87557
Rank: 20311

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Mavis Staples   Primary Artist,Vocals
Donny Gerrard   Background Vocals
Stephen Hodges   Percussion,Drums
Kelly Hogan   Background Vocals
Rick Holmstrom   Guitar
Vicki Randle   Background Vocals
Jeff Tweedy   Bass,Guitar,Percussion,Vocals
Glenn Kotche   Percussion
Scott Ligon   Organ,Guitar,Piano,Clavinet,Wurlitzer
Jeff Turmes   Bass
Spencer Tweedy   Percussion,Drums
Akenya Seymour   Background Vocals

Technical Credits

Mark Greenberg   Cover Art
Mavis Staples   Composer
Jeff Tweedy   Composer,Producer
Tom Schick   Engineer
Zoran Orlic   Cover Photo
Spencer Tweedy   Cover Art

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