Mavis Staples – ‘One True Vine’
I’m a real sucker for legendary artists getting a reboot at a late point in their career. Oftentimes, an artist who grew up listening to the icon will take on the task of producing or writing for them. Ryan Adams did it for Willie Nelson. Marty Stuart did it for Porter Wagoner. The most notable instance for me will always be Rick Rubin’s electric revamp of Johnny Cash in the American Recordings series. This month sees the release of a new long player from legendary gospel singer Mavis Staples, who rose to notoriety as a member of the gospel/R&B group the Staple Singers. A legend in his own right, Jeff Tweedy joined forces with Mavis for a second time, taking the helm on production and writing a selection of the songs for the new album, “One True Vine.” Previously, the two combined efforts in 2010 to bring to life the album “You Are Not Alone,” which brought home the Grammy for Best Americana Album. Needless to say, when these two enter a studio together, something magical is born, and “One True Vine” is no exception.
The album is brimming with sobering moments and enough soul to repeatedly induce goose bumps. Musically, Tweedy, who played almost every instrument on the album with the assistance of his teenage son, relies on a markedly stripped down sound, putting the compositional element of the album on the backburner. This minimalism allows Mavis’ voice the opportunity to shine, as it should, at the focal point of every song. “One True Vine” paints the picture of an accomplished artist, storyteller and activist, making peace with her past, herself, and her Lord, but the story is played out for the most part in the words of others. Covers from Low, the Funkadelics, Wilco and Nick Lowe are forever changed when steered by the mighty voice of Ms. Mavis Staples. Most notable, and unquestionably my highlight, is album-opener “Holy Ghost,” originally by the band Low and first appearing on their recent album, “The Invisible Way”—incidentally, also produced by Tweedy. It becomes very clear that Mavis is opening this new album with a prayer, and allowing us to listen in on the haunting monologue, which swings wide the doors to questions, which are sealed up with hope by the closing words of the title track on the tail end of the album. Introspection lives and breathes in every word of every song, making “One True Vine” a very thematically balanced and adventurous album, while allowing Mavis to still remain true to who she is and her lens of viewing the world. I guarantee chills, emotion, and plenty to latch onto for any music lover. “One True Vine” is out now via Anti- Records.
If You Haven’t Heard: Lockets
Lockets are a collaborative dream pop duo from Philadelphia. Last year saw the arrival of their debut album, “Camera Shy,” which the group released independently via their bandcamp page. This summer, Lockets are poised to release a new 10-inch containing the single “Surrender,” which emerged online a few weeks ago. Dreamy, shimmering, and bright, “Surrender” is a solid throwback to the greatness of ‘80s pop, while adding a nuanced polish to keep everything fresh. Keep your eyes peeled for more from Lockets as their release date draws near, and do yourself a favor by adding “Surrender” to your summer playlist. You can download it by paying what you want at lockets.bandcamp.com.