Mavis Staples, Kelly Hogan | Park West | Blues, Gospel, and R&B | Chicago Reader

Mavis Staples, Kelly Hogan Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard Recommended Critics' Picks

When: Sat., Nov. 27, 7 p.m. 2010

For all the discussion about Jeff Tweedy of Wilco producing You Are Not Alone (Anti-), the new album by gospel-soul legend Mavis Staples, what's most impressive to me is the lightness of his touch. In September, Tweedy told the New York Times that he used the classic sound of the Staple Singers—the family group where Mavis began her career six decades ago—"not as a crutch, but as a template." Following that template, he rendered the instruments gauzy, almost ghostly, and the album's hybrid of soul, gospel, and rock doubles as a subtle commentary on all the genres touched by the Staples sound over the years. A handful of the songs on Alone were written by Staple Singers patriarch and guitarist Pops Staples, and lead guitarist Rick Holmstrom does an excellent job channeling the sound of his vibrato-rich licks. Fittingly, though, the vocals reign supreme throughout, on the Staple Singers material as well as breezily arranged traditional tunes (such as the strummy "In Christ There Is No East or West") and nongospel songs (Randy Newman's "Losing You," the Little Milton classic "We're Gonna Make It"). Nora O'Connor and Kelly Hogan provide stunning harmonies, but Staples's husky alto is the album's unquestionable centerpiece. This show comes on the heels of a European tour, and the odds are good that Tweedy, Hogan, O'Connor, and some of the other locals who helped out on the record will sit in—especially since Hogan opens. For this special holiday concert, attendees are encouraged to bring a new or like-new toy or book, which will be donated to patients at Chicago-area children's hospitals. 18+. —Peter Margasak

Price: $30