A brief but heartfelt recommendation for “We’ll Never Turn Back,” the new recording of songs from the American civil rights movement by the almighty Mavis Staples. From a lesser talent, this would be a stiff and joyless exercise in self-righteous nostalgia. But this is Mavis Staples, the living nexus of American gospel, country, and R&B, and no other living musician has her spiritual and – above all – musical authority.
In contemporary terms, Staples is best known as the lead female vocalist for the Staples and a string of mid-70s hits for Stax Records, most notably “I’ll Take You There.” But prior to those recordings, the Staples were one of the most successful gospel groups in American history and – most important – they were the voice of the American civil rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King’s favorite band. Such a favorite, in fact, that they used to warm up audiences for King’s speeches.
Anyway, “We’ll Never Turn Back” is a marvelous, exhilarating, funky, moving and uplifting recording, and I just can’t recommend it highly enough.
[Briefly: that lovely cover image is a fine argument for the survival of the embattled CD (and vinyl!) format!]
[UPDATE: A reader just pointed me to a wonderful 4:30 promotional video for "We'll Never Turn Back" on the Amazon site.]
[UPDATE 2: Who knew that there are so many Mavis Staples fans reading China blogs? Another reader suggestion: Mavis performing “Eyes on the Prize” on the Tonight Show.