Mavis Staples

One True Vine

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Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy proved to be such a good match on You Are Not Alone -- the album won a Grammy in the category of Best Americana Album -- that the two opted to do it again. Not tremendously different from that 2010 set, One True Vine does involve a slightly different core lineup. Tweedy's teenaged son Spencer drums instead of Stephen Hodges, and Tweedy, rather than Jeff Turmes, handles all the bass duties (among several other instruments). The album features another assortment of covers and new material. Its quieter, reserved, slightly darker mood is tipped off with a cover of Low's "Holy Ghost." Mavis' characteristically arresting voice, supported by Mark Greenberg's lightly touched Wurlitzer and a hushed backing vocalist trio of Tiffany "Makeda" Francisco, Kelly Hogan, and Donny Gerrard, sounds like it could have been recorded during a 2 a.m. service. Early Funkadelic classic "Can You Get to That" -- the most inspired choice of the Tweedy sessions -- is done straightforwardly with slightly goofy vocals from Tweedy and Gerrard. Nick Lowe's contribution, "Far Celestial Shore," can be identified quickly, yet it's not out of place among Tweedy's three originals or the two songs within the public domain. A new version of "I Like the Things About Me" (aka "I Like the Things About You") swaps twanging guitar for buzzing bass and has deeper resonance with Mavis singing lead than the Pops-fronted original heard on The Staple Swingers. Throughout, Tweedy and company give Mavis even more room than on You Are Not Alone. While this isn't as exciting, the grip is instant, hard to break.

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