Since going solo from '60s gospel-pop sensation the Staple Singers, Mavis Staples has never flowered into the dynamic performer many envisioned. Painfully retrofitted to odd genres (disco in 1979 and electro-pop in 1984) and backed by mediocre accompaniment, her solo career has been maddeningly sub par. Her re-emergence in the '90s on the blues label Alligator brought her unique phrasing and innate sensuality back into focus. We'll Never Turn Back, her forthcoming release, is a tribute to the civil rights movement. Producer Ry Cooder helps Staples bring just the right amount of brawn and bravado to material that could, in other hands, ring of sanctimony. "We Shall Not Be Moved," "My Own Eyes" and the defiant title cut are key moments on an effort that makes up for past indiscretions. Staples' throaty vocals haven't been put to such great use since her heyday with the group, when "I'll Take You There" was the most convincing statement of proselytizing ever to make it on top-40 radio.
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