Born in 1939 in Chicago, Mavis Staples achieved wide recognition as lead singer for the Staple Singers.
She first recorded solo for Stax subsidiary Volt in 1969. Subsequent efforts included a Curtis Mayfield-produced soundtrack on Curtom, a disappointing nod to disco for Warner in 1979, a misguided stab at electropop with Holland-Dozier-Holland in 1984, and an uneven album for Paisley Park. Staples has a rich contralto voice that has neither the range of Aretha Franklin nor the power of Patti LaBelle. Her otherworldly power comes instead from a masterful command of phrasing and a deep-seated sensuality expressed through timbre manipulation. Both the Staple Singers and Mavis found fresh audiences stemming from their participation on the CD Rhythm Country and Blues, and in 1996 she issued Spirituals & Gospel: Dedicated to Mahalia Jackson. Her next recording project didn't land for another eight years, although Have a Little Faith on Alligator became her highest-profile release in years. We'll Never Turn Back appeared three years later in 2007. Staples teamed up with Wilco's Jeff Tweedy as producer for 2010's You Are Not Alone, which won the 2011 Grammy Award in the category of Best Americana Album. One True Vine, released in 2013, was also produced by Tweedy and featured a mix of old and new songs written by the likes of George Clinton, Alan Sparhawk (Low), and Nick Lowe. Staples and Tweedy completed the final studio sessions of Pops Staples, released in 2015 as Don't Lose This. Later that year, she released Your Good Fortune, a four-track EP made with Anti- labelmate Son Little. For Livin' on a High Note, her 2016 release, she worked with M. Ward as producer, while Nick Cave, Neko Case, and Bon Iver were among its songwriters. Shortly after its release, HBO premiered Mavis!, a documentary. The following year, she released another album on Anti-, If All I Was Was Black, once again produced and primarily composed by Jeff Tweedy. ~ Rob Bowman, Rovi