“If All I Was Was Black”
BOTTOM LINE Gospel-R&B great’s political album sounds beautiful, could use more urgency.
Gospel heroine Mavis Staples and her Chicago hometown collaborator, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, decided to make a political album without naming current events — Tweedy has said “Little Bit,” the opening song of “If All I Was Was Black” (Anti-), initially included a roll call of those who’ve recently died due to injustice and police brutality.
On their third album together, Staples and Tweedy aimed for timeless and universal — “No Time for Crying,” a gentle ’70s funk throwback with bursts of Parliament-style guitar, concludes, “We’ve got work to do.” Meanwhile, “We Go High” appropriates Michelle Obama’s 2016 applause line.
The result is a thoughtful, mannered album, full of beautifully subtle singing, but it never finds a roaring, “Freedom Highway”-style protest anthem the times so desperately crave.
Exclusive subscription offer
Newsday covers the stories that matter most to Long Islanders. We dig deep to uncover the facts, hold the powerful in check and keep a watchful eye on Long Island.
Your digital subscription, starting at $1, supports local journalism vital to the community.SUBSCRIBE NOW