LISTEN: Mavis Staples Kicks Off New LP On a “High Note”

Livin' On a High Note is out February 19 on Anti-.

Has there been a year in the past forty-five that needed Mavis Staples as badly as 2015 needed her? The Chicago gospel singer rose to prominence in the sixties as one of the strongest voices of the civil rights movement, and she’s spent just about every moment since shouting for hope and calling out injustice. (Witness, for instance, her onstage reaction to the idea of someone saying they want to take the country back: “I ain’t never going back to the back of the bus.”)

And while she never diminished in power, Mavis has been enjoying something of a renaissance. Her 2010 LP You Are Not Alone, which was produced by Jeff Tweedy, was a strong statement of intent, while the 2013 followup—One True Vine, which Tweedy also produced—was equally powerful, if somewhat muted. Last year, she released Your Good Fortune, a brief EP that found her working with Son Little, which later led her to sing the Philly musician’s praises.

Now, she’s gearing up to release Livin’ On a High Note, that EP’s full-length followup. The album was produced by M. Ward and finds Mavis performing songs written especially for her by a variety of musicians. While some (Neko Case, Ben Harper) seem like logical choices, there are a few outliers, too—notably New Orleans blues-punk Benjamin Booker and tUnE-yArDs. Nick Cave, meanwhile, will presumably be shelving his Nick the Stripper swagger and returning to psalmist mode for “Jesus Lay Down Beside Me.” “I told the writers I was looking for some joyful songs,” she said in a statement. “I want to leave something to lift people up; I’m so busy making people cry, not from sadness, but I’m always telling a part of history that brought us down and I’m trying to bring us back up.”

You can hear the album’s title track, which was written by Valerie June, and see the full track list below.

Additionally, Mavis will be the subject of a full-length documentary airing on HBO on February 29. You can see the trailer for the film—called, appropriately enough, Mavis!—below.

Mavis! trailer

Livin’ On a High Note track list

“Take Us Back” (Benjamin Booker)Mavis_Staples-2016-Livin_On_A_High_Note
“Love and Trust” (Ben Harper)
“If It’s a Light” (The Head and The Heart)
“Action” (tUnE-yArDs)
“High Note” (Valerie June)
“Don’t Cry” (M. Ward)
“Tomorrow” (Aloe Blacc/Jon Batiste)
“Dedicated” (Justin Vernon/M. Ward)
“History Now” (Neko Case)
“One Love” (Son Little)
“Jesus Lay Down Beside Me” (Nick Cave)
“MLK Song” (M. Ward/Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Livin’ On a High Note is out February 19 on Anti-.

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