Consequence Of Sound is currently streaming a new EP by soul/gospel legend Mavis Staples entitled Your Good Fortune. The record was produced by young cross-genre soul explorer Son Little and employs modern cut and paste techniques to simultaneously honor and expand upon the rich musical legacy forged by Mavis – renowned as both part of The Staple Singers and as a Grammy winning solo artist – and her father Pops. The EP features two original Son Little compositions paired with two reinterpreted classics, the Blind Lemon Jefferson composition “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” and the Pops “Roebuck” Staples-penned gospel classic “Wish I Had Answered” first recorded by The Staple Singers in 1963.
“I always loved Pops’ voice and guitar playing,” Little says. “Then I found out he was raised on a Mississippi plantation watching the likes of Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson, and Howlin’ Wolf. The man learned directly from people who defined the blues. And it was not lost on me that Mavis has a direct lineage to that birth of American music.”
The songs on Your Good Fortune sonically merge Staples’ powerful voice with Little’s talent for combining and reinterpreting different musical genres. The result are tracks that retain Staples’ emotional delivery as well as key elements of gospel and blues, while adding distinctly modern elements, most notably in the drum and bass sounds.
“Mavis spent her whole life around a particular sound that I happen to love,” Little says. “And I didn’t want to mess with that. I wanted her to feel at home. The way I achieved that might be different than what people have done before, my approach to drums and bass, because what I do is informed by everything that has come after as well. At the end of the day it doesn’t make sense to redo something that’s already been done. You want to create something unique.”
In addition to merging new and old sounds, the record lyrically explores Staple’s uncanny ability to remain hopeful amidst a history that includes ongoing civil rights struggles and personal loss. This is powerfully exemplified on the Son Little penned title track, with lyrics – “Did you pick through the litter and settle on me, am I just a plaything in the wind like a leaf?” – that channel biblical imagery through a thoroughly modern sensibility.
As Little explains, “Despite the difficulties she has been through, she’s not sitting around dwelling on the negative. If she questions anything, it’s why she has received all these gifts. She feels this clear purpose to use the gifts that have been given to her. And it just so happens that her gift helps to heal people and bring attention to things that are important in the world. You don’t meet too many people like Mavis. I can’t imagine going through what she has and staying so positive. I’m not there, I hope to be there one day, but I’m not yet.”
As a young girl with The Staple Singers, Mavis performed in a south still dominated by segregationist Jim Crow laws and racism. The track “Fight” features the line, “I’m a soldier but I don’t use a gun, my daddy had one.” As Little explains, “The song is about fighting for social justice, which Mavis did her whole life and her father Pops was dedicated to. When they were on the road when she was a kid, he would put the gun on the table when dealing with promoters. These were really peaceful people. He just wanted to play music, but he had to also feed his family.”
Stream Mavis Staples’ Your Good Fortune care of
In addition to the new EP, Staples will be joining up with acclaimed singer-songwriter Patty Griffin for for they are calling the Sweet Harmony Soul tour between July 8th and 26th. Amy Helm and her band will open the run.
The new feature length documentary MAVIS! detailing the life of Mavis Staples, has just been acquired by HBO for distribution in the US. The film will be distributed by Films We Like in Canada. Director Jessica Edwards says, “We are beyond thrilled to have HBO as our broadcast partner. They’ve always been such a huge supporter of documentary films. We can’t wait to share the inspiration and joy of Mavis’s music and story with HBO viewers, and with audiences across Canada through Films We Like.”