Never Turn Back – Mavis Staples | CD

(Anti/Shock) 5 stars

On this extraordinary album, gospel-soul matriarch Mavis Staples, aided by Ry Cooder, revisits music that inspired the early 1960s US civil rights movement, along with traditional and original songs.

Many of the tunes accompanying Dr. Martin Luther King and his fellow marchers through those racist southern states were provided by the Staples Singers – guitarist Roebuck “Pops” Staples, daughter Mavis and her three siblings.

Producer/guitarist Cooder, who had undergone a creative renaissance (notably the Cuban `Buena Vista Social Club’ project), sets Mavis’s powerful vocals against an earthy musical backing that draws on his own landmark solo `70s recordings.

With ubiquitous drummer Jim Keltner, visceral bassist Mike Elizondo and Cooder’s percussionist son Joachim delivering the rhythms on `Never Turn Back’, vocals are provided bySouth Africa’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo and three of the ’60s original SNCC (Student Non-violent Co-ordinating Community) Freedom Singers.

The album builds in intensity, from the opening J.B. Lenoir blues, `Down inMississippi’, to the rip-roaring gospel finale of `Jesus on The Main Line’.

Standout track is the inspirational `My Own Eyes’, where Mavis draws on personal experiences past and present, for a highly topical anthem that could become a rallying cry for American presidential elections.

- Mike Daly

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