By Joshua Mellin | October 9th, 2010
The once-tortured mastermind behind Wilco teams up with gospel royalty to create one of the most surprisingly uplifting albums of the year. Two Chicago legends blend wonderfully on Mavis Staples’ new Jeff Tweedy-produced album, You Are Not Alone.
Following a meeting at a Staples show at Chicago’s famed Hideout, the two began toying around in the hallowed halls of the Wilco loft on Chicago’s northwest side. Thumbing through each others iPods, they found shared classics of their childhood to resurrect, and even pieced together a new band to bring the album to fruition live. (At this year’s Lollapalooza, Mavis was hollerin’ for “Tweedy!” to come on stage and strum an acoustic guitar)
Although Wilco’s frontman distances himself (there’s no overwhelming static, or 12-minute drones to be found) his gentle touch as producer is evident — he brings an invaluable musical sensibility that enables Staples to reach new heights.
For example, he suggested songs like Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Song For Everyone,” a song that showcases Staples’ versatility while breathing new life into the track. After seeing both John Fogerty and Staples perform the classic live this summer, the former’s soul version gives the latter’s rock version a run for its money.
You Are Not Alone is a fine collection of invigorated soul, with upbeat tracks like “I Belong To The Band” and “Don’t Knock” that will have you clapping along from start to finish.