Mavis Staples
"Have a Little Faith"
Alligator Records

It’s hard to believe that it’s been eight long years since the last Mavis Staples album, but listen closely here as the wait is more than worthwhile! Mavis is in her usual great vocal form throughout, sounding much more youthful then her sixty-four years on this planet. Mavis told me she went to the bank to make this record and wanted to shop it around the labels, and although Alligator was an unlikely landing spot, I do believe that “Have a Little Faith” will be a welcome addition for the blues fans who are more used to a straight ahead blues based recording. One other point also seems likely, and that is that this album will have a large crossover appeal, and will be played on various formats on the radio dial.

The musicians assembled here are also mostly part of Mavis’s touring unit, and have been playing together with the Staples Singers for the most part of twenty years, so it is no wonder why this disk has such a polished feel to it. Jim Weider adds to several tracks guesting on guitar, as well as the recently departed Pops Staples is also on board for a couple of tunes as well.

The CD opens up quietly with “Step into the Light” with its haunting soft tones and fine B3 work from Chris Cameron. The Dixie Hummingbirds provide that additional gospel groove making this a very entertaining start to what I am already feeling will be a special record. “Pops Recipe” obviously a nod to Pops, offers nifty chord changes, infectious funk, and the great positive message of- “be the best you can be” choruses.

The title track “Have a Little Faith” is an upbeat tune and was one of several showstoppers when I saw Mavis and this band in performance recently. “God is not Sleeping” is one of two tunes submitted by Phil Roy whose gifted lyrics include-“God never stops working”. There is even a Pops Staples song-“A dying Man’s Plea” complete with dobro & fiddle. The second Phil Roy contribution “Ain’t No Better Than You” features the fine guitar of Mr. Jim Weider.

Perhaps the strongest track included is-“There’s a Devil on the Loose”. Listen to these lyrics, as it will make you wonder who this devil is? You can draw your own conclusions. Additionally, Pops plays guitar on this track, and Mavis told me that Pops wanted this song recorded, rightfully so, as this is one powerful tune, and very fitting for the current times we live in. “In Times Like These” thematically follows “Devil on the Loose” perfectly, with a heartfelt choral performance by the Chicago Community Choir. This track will tug at your heartstrings, and make you wonder why it took so long for someone to pick up this album for distribution! The album closes with the traditional “Will the Circle be Unbroken” making the perfect ending to this very personal and emotional disk.

Congratulations to Alligator for “seeing the light” in getting-“Have a Little Faith” out and into our hands. I suspect that you will be listening to this timely recording for many years to come. Last but not least, welcome back Mavis, we really missed you, but your timing for releasing “Have a Little Faith” could not have come at a better time!

Happy listening,

Bob Putignano
President NY Blues & Jazz, and radio
host @ WFDU’s, “Sounds of Blue”