Album review: Mavis Staples, One True Vine

By Lydia Jenkin

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American singer Mavis Staples.
American singer Mavis Staples.

When Mavis Staples asked Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy to produce her 2010 album You Are Not Alone, it was a joyous moment. Staples has a great voice - even into her 70s she still has impressive breadth and authority, and that delicious rich golden syrup quality. But having Tweedy on board brought out her best - a woman who knows exactly how to find the soul of each lyric, and deliver it with natural, heartfelt, honesty.

Three of the 10 tracks on this follow-up outing, One True Vine, were also written by Tweedy, and two of them provide definite highlights.

Jesus Wept is that rare thing - a simple collection of chords and lyrics that have real emotional weight - regret, contemplation, longing.

"I should've told you, I could live without you. But I don't want to" will almost certainly get deeply stuck in your head, beautifully accompanied by Tweedy strumming, playing Wurlitzer, and his son Spencer drumming (they provide most of the instrumentation for the album).

The album closer, and title track, One True Vine is another example of the magical transporting effect that seems to grow when the pair connect. It's faultless. Of course there's plenty of other goodness to be found too. Staples cover of Funkadelic's Can You Get To That is wonderfully grooving and joyous, and I Like The Things About Me, originally written by her father Roebuck "Pops" Staples is delivered with a sly wink, and some excellently throbbing electric guitar.

One True Vine may be a yearning record of gospel, but it has an easy universality and timelessness that makes it one to treasure.

Stars: 5/5
Click here to buy One True Vine by Mavis Staples.

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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