We'll Never Turn Back

Sometimes when the right producer hooks up with the perfect artist musical magic is the result. When Brian Eno teamed up with the Talking Heads for Remain in Light he forever changed our perception of rock music. Daniel Lanois transformed Emmylou Harris from country diva to queen of alternative folk with his production on Wrecking Ball. And now Ry Cooder, who already won a place in heaven for introducing the world to the work of the Buena Vista Social Club, elevates the illustrious career of the legendary singer, Mavis Staples.

We'll Never Turn Back is Mavis Staples's follow up to her 2004 come-back album Have a Little Faith. It is also a stunning work of art with more passion, power and emotion than most artist can ever hope to channel into one release.

Staples' career began in 1950, singing with her father and sisters in church, but by the 1960's the group had marched down the aisle and out into the streets to become the voice of the civil rights movement. Now, half a century later, Staples resurrects some of the greatest songs of that era and introduces them to an audience that is still desperately in need of the hope and determination that drives these anthems. And what a glorious resurrection it is. You'll find no dusty remnants, no shrouds of ancient arrangements on this recording.

Cooder takes a sparse, rhythmic approach to the music, allowing for percussive echoes and ominous bass-lines. Mandolins chime in between Cooder's distinctive guitar riffs. What is amazing about this production is how clearly each instrument shines through while maintaining it's standing as part of the whole.

At the heart of every song is Mavis' voice, rich with experience, emotion and dignity. As she growls out her conviction, she can barely maintain her joy, laughing, speaking her truth, praising the Lord and demanding equality for all beings. She is joined by the 3 original members of The Freedom Singers, an acappella group renowned for their version of "We Shall Overcome." Their haunting vocals on "In the Mississippi" drives home the powerful story of violent racism. Ladysmith Black Mambazo joins Staples on the opening track "Down In Mississippi" which she personalizes by reminiscing about her own experiences with racism. "My Own Eyes" is the centerpiece of this release. Co-written by Staples and Cooder, the track works as a thumbnail history of Staples career and convictions and reveals that she is a woman on a mission. The work of the Civil Rights Movement is far from over and Mavis Staples is a living example of the strength, intelligence, integrity, empathy and commitment it will take to continue the fight.

Rosemary Welsch, WYEP Afternoon Mix host