Will Hermes
May 04, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

We'll Never Turn Back

type
Music
Current Status
In Season
performer
Mavis Staples
genre
Blues

We gave it a B+

The engine of ’70s gospel-pop hitmakers the Staples Singers gets a rootsy makeover on We’ll Never Turn Back, via a label very good at this sort of thing (Merle Haggard, Bettye LaVette). Guitarist/producer Ry Cooder’s tasteful, unfussy arrangements are sometimes saved from predictability by son Joachim, whose digital loops add frisson to songs using the civil rights movement as inspiration and backdrop. But Mavis Staples’ voice outshines all: rich, weathered, and full of fire, sometimes resolving in a cracked tone or a dark, knowing chuckle, her eyes still on the prize. B+

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