Mavis Staples: One True Vine

Posted June 25, 2013 by in Gospel



3.5/ 5


Genre: ,
Genre: Alt-rock, gospel
Producer: Jeff Tweedy
Label: Anti-
Format: Digital download, compact disc
Time: 34:51
Release Date: 25 June 2013
Spin This: "I Like the Things About Me," "One True Vine," "Jesus Wept"


Tweedy provides a nice template of bountiful lyrics and relaxing Southern gospel folk for Staples' bluesy soul


Staples seems too much at ease; hardly lets loose and ad-libs

Staples travels down the long and winding road of Wilco-directed alt-rock gospel folk

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Staples travels down the long and winding road of Wilco-directed alt-rock gospel folk

There’s something about Mavis Staples that makes us gravitate to her sweet nectar. As an ambassador of the golden era of Stax, the soulful leading lady of the Staples family keeps pouring her honey on our ears. Truth be told, she’s the only survivor of that catalog to maintain a steady workload. Whether dipping in the social justice material, playing with artsy funk ranging from Curtis to Prince or singing praises to the Most High God, Mavis Staples almost always has a song to sing. Now in her sixty-third year of making music, the 72-year old veteran has found her groove by exploring the worlds of nostalgia while excavating her gospel folk roots. It’s the kind of stuff that’s turned her into a Wanda Jackson-meets-Mahalia Jackson archetype and the stuff that’s turned Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy into a front row worshipper. Tweedy was there to produce 2010’s You Are Not Alone, and he returns once again to the first pew for One True Vine, her third studio album on the indie Anti- label.

Recorded at The Wilco Loft in Staples’s hometown of Chicago, Staples is once again surrounded by friendly territory. Tweedy does his best to give her a crossover sound that rock revelers will thoroughly embrace, while also complimenting her Rock of Ages gospel. “Holy Ghost,” a newer composition originally constructed by Low, feels like a Pauline conversion experience, as Staples sings from the eyes of a newborn Christian. But deep inside, the mystery of the faith seems to be something even a worn bluesman could identify with: “Some holy ghost keeps me hangin on, hangin on…I feel the hands but I don’t see anyone.” Supporting her every footstep is the multi-talented Tweedy, who plays almost every instrument on the ten-track disc. It’s as if he’s studied the art of Pop Staples’s guitar tradition, or as if he’s knows what sounds best on Mavis’s rugged, but still effective instrument. For whatever the reasons, One True Vine seems to move much slower than her last two records. Many of the songs feel like rustic Southern offerings sung on the porch of a Tennessee log cabin, such as “Far Celestial Shore,” “Sow Good Seeds” and the My Morning Jacket-esque “Jesus Wept.” The latter, deeply entrenched with a strange aroma of sweet sorrow, seems to skip away from the Holy Scriptures to deal with what feels like a departing lover: “Side streets I have worn/Through late summer storms/I should have told you/I could love without you/But I don’t want to.”

But the vibrant Mavis we heard on the Ry Cooder-produced We’ll Never Turn Back singing “99 ½” and “Turn Me Around” is hardly in motion here. She hardly revs up her motor to spit out those “good Gods,” “sha-moans” and that Sunday morning punch of conviction. She seems to be at ease with being a rusty baritone, rather than pulling out those gutsy Southern grunts that she’s best known for. She does perk up a bit on her cover of the Staples’ classic “I Like the Things About Me,” where a woozy guitar explores the depths of ’60’s psychedelic rock. And then there’s her take on Funkadelic’s “Can You Get to That,” which sounds like it could’ve been cut off the same cloth of “Respect Yourself:” “When you base your love on credit/And your loving days are done/Check your signed with a-love and kisses/Later come back signed ‘insufficient funds.’” Staples is totally engulfed by a soulful chorus (even with a bass singer), but she manages to peek her head up from amongst the crowd. As the album finds a way to close the book using the Americana-soaked title track, Staples manages to work the song like Candi Staton does country. And she tells a story of being “dead at first” and “doing my worst” and then “you came to me.” Even in the sunset of a long-lasting career, we can hear Staples doing what she’s does best: Singing like a gospel missionary trapped in the purgatory of the blues. While she’s certainly holding back on her delivery here (and maybe this is what Tweedy would’ve wanted), she still serves up a delicate dish that’s complimentary to her latter work.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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