We Get By

Mavis Staples

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We Get By Review

by Andy Kellman

One of the most resonant songs Mavis Staples has been handed since her 2000s resurgence is "Love and Trust." Staples values the Ben Harper composition enough to have put it at the top of the set list for Live in London, and emphasized it even more by sharing the performance on Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2019, ahead of the parent release. With Live in London only three months old, Staples returns with another studio LP, this one written and produced by Harper. The musician duets with Staples on the reassuring title song -- which sounds built to be played as the back end of a medley leading with "The Weight" -- his role doubtlessly inspired by Pops Staples. For the remainder, Harper leaves Staples and her familiar core band to it, with Jeff Turmes' fluid, lightly bobbing bass lines emphasized a little more than they were on the 2010-2017 sessions. Harper's custom lyrics, all new, are consistent with the themes that have coursed throughout the Staples discography -- steadfast faith, consolation and encouragement, perseverance and progressive action. The churning "Brothers and Sisters" and gently rocking "One More Change" are particularly powerful. Harper doesn't hold back on the grim stuff, either. "Heavy on My Mind" begins with Staples in somber form, joined only by wisps from Rick Holmstrom's guitar: "We did everything we could to slow this world down/Now my love is in the ground." Staples then alludes to inhumane forms of confinement, all relevant in 2019, in similarly deep despair. Whether the songs are designed to motivate, mourn, or comfort, they're all sustenance. The everlasting potency of Staples' voice is a marvel.

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