Mavis Staples – Take Us Back

The great Mavis Staples performed the opening cut from her soul-affirming new record Livin’On A High Note, live on the Late Show. She also sat down for a wonderful interview with Stephen Colbert, talking about her experience of ‘opening’ for Martin Luther King Jr.

Mavis Staples: Action

What a terrifying time to rise our voices / But see I’m not left with minimal choices / I gotta put it into action / Doing it A too Z / Until I set myself free

Mavis Staples is one of the greatest gospel, soul and R’n’B singers. With her family’s group. the Staple Singers, she moved from a Christian gospel group to politically active members of the civil rights movement. This perspective is still noticeable in her music today, like this call to Action, The song is written by 

tUnE-yArDs’ Merrill Garbus. Marvis Staples’ voice is timeless, the message of her music is still so relevant. Her new album Livin On A High Note is  out on Anti- records Febuary 19th.

(I was introduced to Marvis Staples and the history of the Staple Singers by this great interview with Jesse Thorn of NPR’s Bullseye)


Jamila Woods – blk girl soldier 

(Direct link to soundcloud)

This is so good and so timely. A day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the US, a day that this year was the stage for #BlackLivesMatter protest action, Jamila Woods, a vocalist and poet from Chicago, released this track. The song connects music to protests, both of the civil rights movement era in the 50s/60s and today, as Woods explains: 

“I’m interested in figuring out what freedom songs would sound like in 2016. My hope is that ‘blk girl soldier’ is a freedom song for black women today who are fighting the macro and microagressions of daily life in our city/country/world.”

She also sings about  #blackgirlmagic, another concept or movement – the positive highlighting of the great and beautiful things Black girls and women – that is controversial because it is so important and effective. 

Plus, it’s a really great song with a fantastic beat.

Perfect Ruin by Kwabs

If I could give a best new artist award to a charming young English singer, it would definitely go to Kwabs. His voice is so stunning. So far, not a lot of his music was released over here in Germany, but I am excited that his debut album ‘Love + War’ will make it to my neck of the woods in May 2015.

Jesse Thorn’s interview with Mavis Staples on Bullseye is a treat.

In a stunning conversation, Staples talks about her life and work, from growing up singing gospel in churches with her family as the Staple Singers, traveling through the Jim Crow South, meeting Martin Luther King and getting involved in the movement, finding secular success (but always “inspirational,” being church people) and working with Prince. 

Kwabs and band covered Katy Perry’s Dark Horse for BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge, and it’s actually quite nice. Similar to the London Grammar cover of Wrecking Ball earlier this year, the solid pop song at the heart of Dark Horse is unveiled when the singer doesn’t have to rely on loudness to create an impact. Honestly, i think Kwabs is the best new voice in pop music.

First time I heard of British singer Kwabs (Kwabena Sarkodee Adjepongwas when he covered, or rather recreated, James Blake’s The Wilhelm Scream towards the end of last year’s winter. In time for this year’s spring, he releases a new song called Pray for Love. He published the lyrics here. It’s a beauty.


Laura Mvula’s mix of classic soul and modern breeziness can be difficult to locate on a calendar, let alone a map. Classically trained and only 26, she writes songs that sound like the whole world at once.

Stream Sing To The Moon now.

Sing to the Moon is my favorite album of the year so far. Its tone fits the early spring sunshine, but is also so much more. Go listen to it if you haven’t yet.