Mavis was conceived three years ago when Ashley Beedle and Darren Morris were sat in one evening listening to old Mavis Staples and The Staples Sisters recordings. For Beedle, Mavis Steeples had always been an icon, not only for her musical talents but for her involvement in the Civil Rights movement. Little had been done to celebrate her legacy, so together the pair decided to right a very large wrong. Thus some three years later, Mavis is born.
In order to do their idol justice, the duo called on the services of some of the industries most distinct vocalists from Edwyn Collins through to Cerys Matthews, alongside upcoming talents including Crazy P’s Danielle Moore and John Turrell of Smoove and Turrell. The treatment is uniform, producing a laid back collection. The intended celebration kicks off with guest vocalist Kurt Wagner (Lambchop) soothing tones on “Gangs Of Rome”. Louche in approach, Wagner lacks bite but oozes charm. Cerys Matthews is in fine form for her reworking of “Nemesis”, whilst Candi Staton is barely challenged in her “Revolution”. However, these only pave the way for Saint Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell’s ethereal breathings on the divine “When I Walk With You (Heartbreak Song)”.
For all it’s beauty, Beedle and Morris seem unable to make full use of their diverse range of vocalists.
For all it’s beauty, Beedle and Morris seem unable to make full use of their diverse range of vocalists. By keeping their production monotone, the truth breadth of their singers is never fully utilised. “Let Your Love Shine” would have stolen the record had Crazy P’s Danielle Moore been allowed a bit more space to use the power in her voice, but as it is, it blends into the background. Only Ed Harcourt on “Puzzles and Riddles” seems allowed to bend the formula, though it is never truly broken.
Mavis may drift off into the background, but it does nevertheless contain some tender and uplifting moments. Brief moments lifts Mavis from the average but it never quite captures the true soul of their inspiration.