Monday, 13 December 2010

Open up! This is raid...

I am a huge fan of Wilco's Wilco (The Album). I'm not sure what their other stuff is like, but tracks like Wilco (The Song) and I'll Fight are everything I want from a steel stringed rock song. It all sounds soft and real. It's the kind of music that fits a scene. You're drinking strong coffee in a dinner as you stare out across the overcast skies that press heavily on the plains before you. It's music for the lull in the journey.

Mavis Staples We'll Never Turn Back was all about the journey on the other hand. About the journey from being locked up by "southern racists cops" to seeing Hurricane Katrina expose the old divides and cry out: "99 and a half won't do".
Now whereas that album was produced by Ry Cooder, along comes Mavis's latest produced by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy: You're Not Alone. The title track alone is worth the price of admission. To me it's about a frustrated cry: "Open up this is a raid, I wanna get it through to you, you're not alone". Open up! 

What's refreshing too is that Mavis has moved from the civil rights themes of We'll Never Turn Back to strong gospel themes. It's familiar, but different. It's nice to see an artist develop, rather than pump "what worked last time" for another cache of gold.

Songs such as In Christ There Is No East Or West or Don't Knock are wonderfully spiritual and intimate. Intimate's a word that's bandied about a lot, but whereas so many Gospel efforts seem to focus on huge numbers of voices and gun for the scale - Tweedy keeps things simple and warm. Listening to the former track now, it feels like she could be performing in the lounge with me. There's a lovely feel about the album - it's like homemade jam. You feel people could make this with you and you could join in.

It's a great album and, while it's not had the plays for me to know for sure, I think it'll be one I'll keep coming back to.

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