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By David Werther.

Mavis Staples, We'll Never Turn Back (Anti, 2007) 
           Borrowing a phrase from Nietzsche, Eugene Peterson entitled his wonderful book on the the psalms of ascent A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. As with the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, a long and faithful Christian life is a lot easier with a soundtrack. Perhaps that's why the same New Testament author who spoke about being faithful in season and out of season also spoke about being filled with the Spirit by singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.
           Mavis Staples's We'll Never Turn Back is about faithfulness, persevering obedience, and the love of God. Mavis and her family, The Staple Singers, worked with Dr. Martin Luther King in the civil rights movement. In the words of Pop Staples, "if he can preach it, we can sing it." Notwithstanding their seminal role in the civil rights movement, the Staple Singers never recorded their freedom songs. Mavis Staples does so now. She is joined by the original Freedom Singers in the harrowing "In the Mississippi River," a song about dragging the river for the bodies of freedom fighters and knowing that the next body found "could be your son."
           If, at their heart, the songs on this CD were only about the civil rights movement, they would provide a faithful and powerful memorial to that movement.  But they do a whole lot more, for they convey the hope and strength God holds out to all the battered and beleaguered. Unless my experience is unrepresentative, listeners will begin to live in these songs and find them addressing their own situation, inspiring hope ("Down in Mississippi" and "Eyes on the Prize") and perseverance ("We'll Never Turn Back" and "99 1/2").
           Throughout the CD, Mavis Staples's husky voice is full of power and conviction, a conviction that is contagious. She's a great companion to have on a pilgrimage.

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