January 18, 2008


Staples of Soul (VALERIE GLADSTONE, January 18, 2008, NY Sun)

Two musical giants, the gospel singer Mavis Staples and the guitarist and producer Ry Cooder, had only met once before working together last year. But their unusual recording session produced the electrifying "We'll Never Turn Back," one of the most memorable collections of Ms. Staples's 50-year career. [...]

Eagerly relating the story behind the new recording, she said, "Let's go back to 1994, when Pops won a Grammy for 'Father, Father,' which Ry produced. After the ceremony, he comes up to me and says, 'Your father taught me everything I know.' I'm surprised, so I ask Pops when he gave Ry lessons. He said that he didn't. Ry had just been studying him on his own. So time passes, and I'm planning to make a new record, and my manager tells me Ry wants to produce it. 'Oh Lord, you have to be kidding,' I say, 'I couldn't ask for anything more.'"

It's pretty hard to shake up Ms. Staples, who entertained Martin Luther King and presidents Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton, performed in films and television shows, and spent at least one night in jail after a protest march. But Mr. Cooder, who recently introduced America to Cuban music with "Buena Vista Social Club," managed to do just that with his recording methods. His first move during their initial conversation in Chicago was to ask for her late father's amplifier so he could plug in his guitar.

"Then, I knew we were going to be all right," Ms. Staples said. "First we talked about doing some 18th-century songs, but I suggested we should be more up to date, like what we sang during the civil rights marches — 'Eyes on the Prize,' and '99 and a Half Won't Do.' A lot of things are no better now than they were then, after all. Look at Katrina. Letting people die in that stadium. Things still aren't fixed. That's why I wrote 'Mine Own Eyes,' about the racism I've seen in my long life. I thought we'd rehearse the day before, as everyone usually does. But no. He didn't want to rehearse."

She paused a long while before continuing, to emphasize just how extraordinary the experience was for her.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 18, 2008 9:31 AM

Omygod does that sound good...

Ry and Mavis are two of my all-timers.

I'm off to Amazon !!

Posted by: JonofAtlanta at January 18, 2008 3:28 PM

It is a wonderful record.

Posted by: ted welter at January 18, 2008 10:26 PM