Your Good Fortune (ep)
Mavis Staples is a survivor and striving on – she doesn’t ever sound like some geriatric party-trick, she sounds like a vital artist, pushing herself on, compelled to work. That was largely the tone of the recent, celebratory documentary.
That documentary’s one big failing was in not acknowledging how crucial the Ry Cooder-produced “comeback” album, We’ll Never Turn Back, was opting instead to focus on the Jeff Tweedy-helmed album (weaker, though not embarrassing). Well, here we have a slight left turn from Staples, and good on her for trying something slightly new again. An EP produced – and driven – by Son Little, it features two originals by him and two songs long-associated with Mavis via her time with the Staple Singers.
It’s almost Little Axe-like, the way Son Little churns a blues groove with elements of hip-hop and funk.
We might not need another version of See That My Grave Kept Clean, it’s becoming a shorthand for “I beat the odds/I’m still going…” but of course that Mavis gravel works so well with this tune. The gospel kick of Wish I Had Answered is better though.
But it’s the new songs – new to Mavis – that really prove the point of what a smart move this is. The title track takes the sort of material that just coasted along on the Tweedy album and places it in a context that feels more similar to the Cooder framing of Mavis’ vocals. And Fight is sinewy and showcases Son Little’s approach.
What is impressive here is that an artist of Staples’ stature and longevity understands the point of a less-is-more EP. She’s done the album to death currently, her last couple essentially repeating themselves/the same trick. Here we get the start of a new feel creeping into place. Her voice as good as its been, still. The material all killer, or close enough. Certainly no filler.