Mavis Staples has the protest song in the blood. As a member of the Chicago gospel group Staple Singers, she lived through first-hand the US civil rights movement in the late 1960s. At that time, the Staple Singers proved with their protest songs as a powerful voice of the civil rights movement. In parallel to the activities in the gospel group, Mavis Staples started her solo career, which continues uninterruptedly to this day thanks to her still great gospel voice with an unmistakable soul core. Since the times following the civil rights movement were at least more bearable for colored US citizens than before, there was no immediate reason for Mavis Staples, now 78, to continue to use her voice for protest purposes. Now that the climate of coexistence between the white and the color population has changed dramatically in the last one year and fundamental values are at risk, Mavis Staples has come to raise her voice to point out the predicament. In contrast to the protest songs of the civil rights movement with their typically irreconcilable attitude, their new album If All I Was Was is not just dedicated to the implacable accusation of current states. Rather, she calls on US society to voice their power to overcome the currently rampant racism and the excessive hatred with increased love for each other.
The lyrics of the songs are remarkable and they deserve to be listed in the booklet. That this is not the case, is the only, albeit extremely annoying lapse of this album. Their notable lyrical, but also their musical quality are due to Jeff Tweedy, the producer of the album, who is active this album as a singer and guitarist but also as a bassist and drummer and who is best known for his band Wilco whose artistic freedom he has wrested from the Warner Music Group in court. Hence there are the right fighters together, to bring forward the current misery in the White House in their songs, for example in "Who Told You That" in a nutshell: "Oh, they lie, and they show no -shame". Even more explicit about the state of the nation and the means available to change it, the singer said in a Los Angeles Times interview, "Something is wrong-it's all gone haywire," she told the L.A. Times recently. "I get angry ... This is Trump, talking about 'Make America great again.' Well, I do not think America has lost any of its greatness. But we do not need change, and these songs are not gonna do it-they're gonna bring us together, make us love one another. "
What Mavis Staples understands as "bring us together, make us love one another" is evidenced by songs like "We go high", which in the words of Michelle Obama means "We go high, when they go low" "We Go High", or the title song, which concludes: "It’s time for more love." Charged are both the conciliatory and the accusing songs with the unrestrained passion of a first-rate soul singer. Along with the remarkable lyrics and a first-class sound If All I Was What Black obviously is an album that deserves and certainly gets attention not only in the United States, but also in this country as a testament to the resistance of American artists to the most awkward state of a people that until recently was a source of universal freedom.
Mavis Staples, vocals
Jeff Tweedy, guitar, bass, percussion, vocals
Spencer Tweedy, drums, percussion
Donny Gerrard, backup vocals
Vicki Randle, backup vocals
Kelly Hogan, backup vocals
Akenya Seymour, backup vocals
Rick Holmstrom, guitar
Jeff Turmes, bass
Stephen Hodges, drums, percussion
Glenn Kotche, percussion
Scott Ligon, clavinet, piano, organ, Wurlitzer, guitar