One True Vine doesn’t quite surpass the high benchmark set by their previous partnership, but you can’t go wrong with Jeff Tweedy’s delicate touch and Mavis Staples’ exquisite voice. 

For the second time in succession Mavis Staples has teamed up with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, following their 2010 Grammy-winning You Are Not Alone. And for the second time they’ve made a marvellous modern gospel – by way of alt-country – album.

 

It kicks off with ‘Some Holy Ghost’, a song that showed up for the first time on Low’s The Invisible Way, another Tweedy production. As he does with Mimi Parker’s voice on that version, Tweedy shows his knack for stripping everything back when a song calls for it. Staples, whose voice has taken on a gravelly quality as she’s aged, gets right under your skin. A bright treatment of Funkadelic’s ‘Can You Get To That’ reminds us of The Staples Singers’ gospel/funk heyday and later Pops Staples’ ‘I Like The Things About Me’ is given a Black Keys-style lo-fi rock makeover.

 

The highlight may be ‘Jesus Wept’, which very nearly made me shed a tear too. Staples sings, “My throat quits when I try to say / How I long for the day / How I wish there was a way / I could see you again”, proving that loss doesn’t get any easier to deal with as you get older. Thank goodness for the Nick Lowe penned pick-me-up ‘Far Celestial Shore’ immediately after: “There’s a place I know for certain, I will someday see / When I lay down my burden and look on Galilee”.

 

4/5 stars

 

BY DAVID WILD

 

One True Vine is out now through Anti/Warner.

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