Mavis Staples performs at Christ Episcopal Church Friday night.
7:30 p.m. Christ Episcopal Church. $20-$35.
Wow, this is a big get, Little Rock. Mavis Staples
is up there with the greats of gospel (with a career spanning seven decades), and she also has also one of the most expressive and distinctive voices in soul ever committed to tape. Of course, many will be familiar with the singer via her years with Stax hitmakers The Staple Singers, whose "I'll Take You There," "Respect Yourself," and "Let's Do it Again" were among the biggest hits of their era. Staples is no stranger to venturing out on her own however, having cut her first solo album in 1969.
Her two most recent discs — 2010's "You Are Not Alone" and this year's "One True Vine" — were both produced by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. They're also both excellent, with the former winning a Grammy for best Americana album. There are some interesting choices of material on the albums, including selections by Low, Allen Toussaint, Nick Lowe, Rev. Gary Davis and Randy Newman, among some traditionals, a few Tweedy tunes and some gospel-era Staple Singers numbers. Covering early Funkadelic is a risky gambit for anyone ("Funkadelic" through "America Eats Its Young" is as good a four-album run as any in pop music, IMO), but Staples' and her crew's cover of "Can You Get to That" is mostly faithful to the original, though it sticks out just a bit amidst the slightly more subdued material that makes up the rest of the set.
But if I had to guess, I'd venture that a Mavis Staples concert is anything but a somber affair, likely to be equal parts soul fireworks and spiritual firepower. What better venue could you ask for? Don't skip this one y'all.