Back in January, we were excited to learn that soul legend Mavis Staples had entered the Wilco Loft studios in Chicago to record a new album. Now comes word that the record, produced by Jeff Tweedy, will be titled You Are Not Alone with a release date of 14 September.
Ms. Staples was interviewed recently by Stephen M. Deusner for Pitchfork. Her first exposure to Wilco didn't come until last year, after Tweedy had approached her about producing some songs. Ms. Staples' agent called her and told her to turn on the local PBS station; seems the band was performing on Austin City Limits: "Man, I tell you, I almost jumped out of my skin. They were dynamic and just so unbelievable. They are all so talented. All these guys are stars in their own rights. Many of them could go out on their own and be successful, I feel. But they are a band . . . I'm so happy to be connected to Wilco, the band, period." Keyboardist Patrick Sansone and Tweedy play on You Are Not Alone, joined by members of Ms. Staples' touring band and frequent Neko Case collaborating vocalists Kelly Hogan, Nora O'Connor and Richard Parenti.
The album features traditional gospel titles as well as two new songs written specifically for Ms. Staples by Tweedy, along with covers of tunes by Allen Toussaint, Pops Staples, Randy Newman and John Fogerty.
The results were pleasing to the artist, to say the least. "I really hate that the session is over. I wish we had one more song . . . I told Jeff, I said 'It's cartwheel time for me. I can't do it, but I'll get one of my nieces and nephews to do a cartwheel for me.' "
Mavis Staples is set to perform live this summer at Lollapalooza and Wilco's Solid Sound Festival.
The track listing for You Are Not Alone:
01 "You Don't Knock" (Pops Staples/Wesley Westbrook)
02 "You Are Not Alone" (Jeff Tweedy)
03 "Downward Road" (Pops Staples)
04 "In Christ There Is No East Or West" (Traditional, arranged by Tweedy)
05 "Creep Along, Moses" (Traditional)
06 "Losing You" (Randy Newman)
07 "I Belong To The Band" (Rev. Gary Davis)
08 "Last Train" (Allen Toussaint)
09 "Only The Lord Knows" (Jeff Tweedy)
10 "Wrote A Song For Everyone" (John Fogerty)
11 "We're Gonna Make It" (Little Milton)
12 "Wonderful Savior" (Traditional)
13 "Too Close To Heaven/I'm On My Way To Heaven Anyhow" (Prof. Alex E. Bradford, Jr./Brad Pathway)