Massey Hall presents
At the beginning of her eighth decade of singing truth, Mavis Staples has delivered If All I Was Was Black (ANTI- Records), ten songs about America today, where the present is filled with ghosts of the past. "Nothing has changed," Mavis said in early August, just days before the world watched neo-Nazis march with swastika flags in Charlottesville, Virginia, as a young woman was murdered. "We are still in it."
This record represents Mavis' third collaboration with songwriter and producer (and Wilco frontman) Jeff Tweedy. Their first partnership in 2010, You Are Not Alone, won a Grammy Award for Best Americana album. Their second effort together, One True Vine, was a Grammy nominee. But If All I Was Was Black marks the first time Tweedy has composed an entire album of original songs for Mavis' legendary voice and a nation she's uniquely poised to address.
Emerging from this pairing is an interracial, multi-generational collaboration. If we've fallen short of our brightest promises, this record stands to remind us what we're still capable of. The partnership itself is part of the point.
Mavis sang with family for her first paying gig at Holy Trinity Baptist Church in 1948, moving over time from the gospel circuit to radio and eventually even to stadium shows, collecting a number one hit along the way and adding almost every musical form to her repertoire. She has performed with Bob Dylan, Booker T., Ray Charles, and The Band, among many others, and has had music written for her by everyone from Prince and Nick Cave to Neko Case.
"Bring us all together as a people—that's what I hope to do. You can't stop me. You can't break me. I'm too loving...These songs are going to change the world."