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Album review: Livin’ On A High Note by Mavis Staples help showcase talent of younger musicians

Mavis Staples takes on material written especially for her by the likes of younger generation of musicians including Ben Harper, Justin Vernon, Neko Case and Aloe Blacc.
Livin’ On A High Note by Mavis Staples. Courtessy Anti- via AP
Livin’ On A High Note by Mavis Staples. Courtessy Anti- via AP

Livin’ On A High Note

Mavis Staples

(Anti-)

Three stars

Mavis Staples takes a joyful turn on Livin’ On a High Note, covering a dozen songs mostly from musicians decades her junior.

She takes on material written especially for her by the likes of Ben Harper, Justin Vernon, Neko Case and Aloe Blacc. Harper’s Love and Trust is soulful, with haunting background vocals and a slinky bass line. Action from the Tune-Yards echoes Curtis Mayfield’s advocacy, while M Ward’s Don’t Cry resembles a funkier, grown-up version of Alright by Supergrass.

Staples often sings in short, sharp phrases, her vocals taking on an almost conversational tone, transmitting feelings without having to resort to musical acrobatics.

The album ends with a highlight, as she returns to her civil rights roots on MLK Song. Accompanied only by Ward’s acoustic guitar, she delves into 1940s gospel hymn If I Can Help Somebody, as adapted by Martin Luther King Jr while envisioning his own funeral in one of his last sermons.

Not every track’s a winner, but Staples helps show there is plenty of talent among the young’uns.

artslife@thenational.ae

Updated: February 22, 2016 04:00 AM

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