"Listen. Dreaming of Mavis, some singers, some kindred spirits, lovingly selected, having never met, each other or her, passing on their feelings, from song to song, meeting place to meeting place, finding their Mavis, loving her in the imagination, praising Mavis, the way her hands moved, how she breathed, the rebellious wisdom, the faith, sorrow and trust, the inner mystery, gracing Mavis, the city she built, the mountains she moved, the beautiful and tough songs she sung, out of heavy shadows and great light, ruins and fragments, mouth and nerve."
-Paul Morley 2009
I wear my appreciation for Soul superstar Mavis Staples on my sleeve. When I was able to see her perform a few years ago, I was ecstatic. So when I first heard about Mavis, all sorts of thoughts filled my head. Is it a new Mavis Staples album? No. Is it a bunch of artists singing Mavis Staples cover songs? No. Is it a brand new group/singer completely unconnected with Mavis Staples. Well, kind of...
Roughly 4 years Ashley Beedle and Darren Morris heard Mavis Staples cover of a Burt Bacharach song, A House Is Not A Home, that hit them hard. Working off that song, the pair put together an instrumental rhythm track which they then sent to Ed Harcourt, who laid some vocals down over the track. Inspired by the results, Beedle then sent the exact same track to a handful of other singers, who in turn recorded their own, original vocal interpretations of the instrumental and sent them back to Beedle, who then subverted the backing track to individualize it to their voice and vocal message. Sound complicated? Maybe, but the resulting album is amazing.
So who exactly is Mavis? It's the behind the scenes work of Beedle and Morris coupled with a line-up of vocalists, some familiar, some not so much, producing some completely chill down beat music of beauty and power. For those of you familiar with Beedle, don'e be expecting some floor shaker. This album is one to go easy with. Check out the vibe with Puzzles & Riddles, below, as well as the song that was the inspiration for this project in the first place from the #1 Mavis!
and the song that inspired it: