Mavis Staples – I’ll Take You There: An All-Star Concert Celebration
Blackbird Production Partners LLC
A Mavis Staples concert is a joyous experience – a celebration, she’s there at church and she, erm, takes you there…so on this tribute we have to wait for the last half hour for Mavis; still regal and wonderful and a master interpreter of material across country, pop and soul, giving all of the songs a gospel-makeover of sorts.
If you are impatient you might skip past a few gems – Patty Griffin singing Waiting For My Child To Come Home, Buddy Miller’s rendition of Woke Up This Morning, Taj Mahal preaching on Wade In The Water – and/or you might sit through some well-meaning but lightweight renditions (Glen Hansard handling Peole Get Ready, Win Butler’s Talking Heads-lite cover of Slippery People – but Mavis is at least at the mic for that).
These songs are all associated with Mavis – and though I’d rather have her singing Eyes on The Prize over Eric Church you have to remember the tribute-aspect; Don Was putting together a super-group and some super cameos to honour one of the greats.
Well, having then now departed Gregg Allman singing Have A Little Faith gives this a hint of a double-tribute too I guess.
If there’s one or two shaky moments – and it really is mostly pretty decent – all faith is restored when Mavis Staples steps up, whether it’s a sombre roll through the Jeff Tweedy-penned, produced and co-performed You Are Not Alone or those majestic Staples, erm, staples – such as The Weight, Will The Circle Be Unbroken, and of course the title track.
I’d rather listen to any of Mavis’ recent material – and the classic Staple Singers recordings of course – but it’s a cold heart that doesn’t find some magic (if not quite enough grit) here.