She won a Grammy in 2010 for her last collaboration with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. You get Grammys for uplift. But One True Vine tells a slightly different story, one of spiritual inquiry and trial. Well, almost. This is not Mavis Staples the hearty belter of gospel platitude but the quiet examiner of religious premise – there isn’t a shadow of doubt expressed here about where Mavis is going, but there is plenty of feeling that the journey, like all journeys, is bordered with darkness. It’s in the sound of the music and, even more so, in the recessiveness of Staples’ own performances. The gospel interior.
Tweedy’s back in the production chair which, of course, means a lot more than mere knob-twiddling: with Jeff you get aesthetic, too. He plays virtually everything apart from drums – guitars and bass, principally – while the clickety-clack comes courtesy of one of his two begotten sons, Spencer. There are a few supporting gospel voices and the occasional tincture of horn, but really this is semi-acoustic shed music, tinkered into shape.
Songs? A handful of traditionals, some Tweedy originals, plus George Clinton, Alan Sparhawk and, i’faith, Nick Lowe. Though not one of his funny ones.