8 thoughts on “Watch Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy: Only The Lord Knows”

  1. Is there a Tweedy version of this floating around yet? I may be the one person in America who does not like Mavis’ singing. Never liked the Staples Singers records at all really. They sorta paved the way for that whole mess of slick, public-radio saturated, gospel blues. Holmes Brothers anyone? I really can’t stand it.

  2. Ummm…ok…they did pave the way for gospel blues alright – heaven forbid. Kind of like Uncle Tupelo paved the way for alternative country – thank God.

  3. ?

    Don’t see the connection. I’m talking about the slick, overproduced, post-SRV, white-boy blues in a leather Stetson & Rayban sunglasses loving gospel/funk/blues crap that NPR force feeds yuppie suburbanites. The kind of endless R&B discs churned out by the truckload by Alligator, Ichibon, Bullseye, etc. This record seems like that kind of overpraised, safe for white folk getting their mochachino at Border’s cafe kind of release. I’m just thinkin’ out loud here… People seem so quick to praise this kind of project. They often seem very calculated to me. I don’t know, maybe Jeff LOVES the Staple singers. I never heard it in his music before, but maybe I’m wrong.

  4. Fair enough – I meant in the popular context – mainstream acceptance. Your points are well taken though. NPR is as pretentious as it gets in my book. Liberal gobbledeeguk.

  5. How can you blame the Staples Singers for slick, overproduced, post-SRV, white-boy blues? I don’t get that at all. Pops Staples was the opposite of all of that. And Mavis has one of the greatest, least slick voices in the history of popular music. Their pre-Stax stuff with all the tremolo (“Uncloudy Day,” etc.) is just spooky and cool, and their Stax stuff is funky and badass. I don’t understand how anybody can listen to “I’ll Take You There” or “Respect Yourself” and not think those are absolutely perfect songs. I’m not the world’s biggest Staples Singers fan, but I like everything I’ve heard by them.

    I’ve never heard the Holmes Brothers or anything on Alligator, Ichibon, or Bullseye. But Mavis Staples is still relevant and awesome. She just released a live album recorded at the Hideout (the best bar in Chicago) a couple years ago. She’s a badass grandma figure and her message is as important today as it was 40 years ago.

    I realize that anything Tweedy has anything to do with automatically gets flagged with the NPR/Dad Rock/beardo tag, and that might be true. Whatever. Just because it’s Dad Rock doesn’t mean it’s not good.

    Maybe gospel isn’t for you. That’s fine. I don’t listen to a lot of it either, but I love Ray Charles and Sam Cooke and Curtis Mayfield, and all those guys came out of gospel and brought a lot of gospel into everything they did.

    Calculated? The album moved 6K in its first week and 5K in its second week. Not a very smart calculation if you’re trying for big record sales. I find it kinda ridiculous when people question other people’s sincerity about stuff they don’t know/care about. Cynicism is a bummer.

  6. Wammo!! I think Bob was mostly railing against the Starbucks/NPR vibe that tends to come across as phony, commercialized, and soulless – especially when gospel music is all about the soul itself. And even though both NPR and Starbucks have played and sold a few artists that I actually respect and enjoy, when it’s presented in that format, it’s cheesy.

    But Mavis Staples still sounds fantastic and this is a good record.

  7. “But Mavis Staples still sounds fantastic and this is a good record.” = all I give a shit about.

  8. At least a couple of people got what I was trying to get at. I haven’t heard the whole record, just three or four tracks. I give Tweedy the benefit of the doubt because I still respect him, even if I don’t love much of what he does anymore. I just meant that this TYPE of project is often very calculated and done purely for the press release value with the Fresh Air/Starbucks p.o.p. display crowd. See Joe Henry’s resume for a good example of this trend.

    And I love gospel as much as anything, when it’s raw and real sounding. I recognize I might be in the minority on the Staples, but I’ve picked up tons of their records over the years. I keep thinking “this is the one” because there HAS to be some great stuff there. But it mostly sounds pretty slick to me. Hardly the worst example of the bigger picture that I was getting at, but a good indication of where it might have started. It’s just a lazy, mostly putrid genre that sort of built up around this kind of record. Not saying the Staples themselves were lazy or putrid mind you, but tune in to 95% of the blues shows on your local NPR station. Doesn’t matter where you live, it’s all pretty much the same junk.

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