Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

January 24, 2012

Mavis Staples

Mahaiwe, Great Barrington, MA
January 22, 2012
by Eric Sutter

Soul folk gospel singer Mavis Staples performed an inspirational sound of good news joy in a concert at Mahaiwe. Her voice always had a ring of truth to it and this night was no exception. Like the clang of a horseshoe hitting home, she began with the loud praise of "Wonderful Savior." Staples then eased into the traditional a capella gospel song "Creep Along Moses." Her band paid homage to contemporaries with the John Fogerty penned "Wrote a Song for Everyone" and a tribute to her "Last Waltz" performance with The Band's "The Weight" from their 1976 farewell concert.

Next came the title cut from Staples Grammy nominated Americana CD which Wilco's Jeff Tweedy penned, "You Are Not Alone." This brought a hushed silence of wonder from the audience. The anticipation melted as the familiar strain of the pops Staples’ song "Freedom Highway" gushed with heartfelt emotion as the relief from the audience was audible with a collective sigh and forthcoming singing. The memories from the 1962 Civil Rights era continued with her urgent plea vocal set to the socially conscious lyrics of Dr. Martin Luther King’s favorite Staple Singers song, "Why? (Am I Treated So Bad). "We're Going to Make It" turned into an old fashioned ring shout of a capella delight with Donny Gerrard, Vicki Randle, Mavis and Yvonne Staples harmony voices which climaxed with a ferocious electric guitar solo by Rich Homstrom. Just as the gospel fervor hit its zenith, Jeff Turmes performed a cool slide guitar instrumental of "Go Down Moses.” Homstrom mellowed the deep emotional impact further with his sweet soothing challenge of a blues instrumental that cut through the messy condition of being human. Hallelujah!

"I Belong to the Band" brought forth more lovely harmony singing and a positive message of love to close the show. Staples and troupe encored with the 1971 #1 hit on the soul and pop charts, the reggae influenced groove of "I'll Take You There." Scout's honor, the singing cheers were like the good vibe of a home run hit in your favorite baseball park...except everyone was a winner.