Next month, music legend Mavis Staples is releasing her next studio album, which is being produced by Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy. It promises to be an event for Wilco fans and soul enthusiasts, and I'm definitely looking forward to it.
As part of of the anticipation for this, I've been going back and listening to some of the singer's earlier work, and I don't think it gets much better than the Staple Singers' "Top Of the Mountain."
This track is taken from 1968's "Soul Folk In Action," when the Staple Singers were moving further away from their gospel roots and getting a little bit more gritty in their song arrangements. The song is from the standpoint of someone who is working her way up from a rough upbringing, and is confident that hard work and persistence will ultimately lead her to a better life. Or maybe it's about struggling to be a good person despite the tough times, looking out for one another, and making it to heaven as the ultimate reward. The lyrics are purposely ambiguous, and in a time full of civil rights headiness and "Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud" type anthems, the Staple Singers were marching in lockstep with the times.
On the other hand, you can leave the lyrical analysis aside, listen to Mavis storming through the vocals, get lost in the solid back beat, and let the whole cut completely draw you in. It's what those soulful pipes are best at, and it's why next month's disc should be a winner....