Mavis Staples is the queen of reinvention.
The Chicago-based singer and civil rights icon has been a staple on the gospel circuit for over 50 years, making her name foremost in spirituals with her family’s group, the Staple Singers, who added “Respect Yourself” and “I’ll Take You There” to the American music lexicon. But on her own, she has continually put her stamp on pop, rock and folk worlds thanks to her work with such varied artists as Prince, The Band, Curtis Mayfield and Bob Dylan (who once asked for her hand in marriage; she declined).
The powerhouse singer’s latest album, the Grammy-nominated “You Are Not Alone,” now finds her working with the undisputed king of the alternative rock scene — Jeff Tweedy, of Wilco.
“Mavis is the walking embodiment of undaunted spirit and courage,” said Tweedy. “She’s an ever-forward looking, positive example for all human beings. And she sounds like she’s in the prime of her life.”
The resulting record is a collection of originals written by Tweedy and covers of songs by such blues and soul icons as Allan Toussaint and Little Milton, and pop master craftsmen Randy Newman and John Fogerty. All are united by that heavy, layered Wilco tinge, but with Staples’ wonderfully warm voice at the forefront.
“I wanted to make an album where every song had meaning,” says Staples. “Where every song told a story and would lift you up and give you a reason to get up in the morning. And I know it’s going to feel really good singing these songs on stage.”
Lucky for you, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer brings her golden voice to the Bell House on Jan. 18.
“Mavis was looking for somewhere special in Brooklyn to do an intimate show before leaving for Europe,” said Jack McFadden, one of the promoters for the show.
Thanks to this coup, the Gowanus venue is slowly building its own soul pedigree in Brooklyn.
“Between our New Year’s line-up, the Soul Festival last fall and now Mavis, we’ve gotten to host some really amazing and legendary soul acts in the past six months,” said Heather D., director of events for the Bell House. “That style of music sounds and looks so good in the room, too.”
We can’t wait.
Mavis Staples at the Bell House [149 Seventh St. between Second and Third avenues in Gowanus, (718) 643-6510], Jan. 18 at 7 pm. Tickets $35 in advance, $40 at the door. For info, visit www.thebellhouseny.com.