Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mavis Staples Live: Hope at the Hideout (ANTI-Records)

It was definitely a homecoming for gospel/soul legend Mavis Staples on her latest effort, Mavis Staples Live: Hope at the Hideout. This intimate, yet electrifying performance was recorded this past summer in Chicago. Staples not only revisited her hometown, but on Live: Hope at the Hideout she also rediscovered the musical foundation of our country. As a member of The Staples Singers, known for classics like “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself,” she along with her siblings and her father, Roebuck “Pops” Staples, found their musical roots in the heart of The Civil Rights Movement.

From hymns and spirituals to protest songs, The Staples Singers became an important musical force during a turbulent time in America. And in today’s hard times, the songs on Live: Hope at the Hideout remain relevant. The show was kicked off with a rousing cover of Stephen Stills’ “For What It’s Worth.” For Staples, these spirituals and protest songs were also deeply personal. On “Down in Mississippi,” she recalls how she witnessed the “For Coloreds Only” signs taken down thanks to the efforts of Dr. King, while “We Shall Not Be Moved” recounts when she along with fellow protestors refused to leave after being denied service at a restaurant in the South. The quality of Staples’ low singing voice is gravel-tinged and heavily steeped in the gospel tradition where at times, you feel as though you’re a parishioner at church. Her three-piece band, especially Rick Holmstrom’s melodious guitar, adds the right balance of traditional rhythm and blues to Staples’ stirring gospel sound. Live: Hope at the Hideout is a reminder of how strength and courage will once again prevail just as it has for civil rights champions like Mavis Staples.

Shannon J. Effinger

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