Simone Kopmajer – Good Old Times (2017)

FrontCover1A cool-toned Austrian jazz vocalist, Simone Kopmajer sings in flawless English. She had classical piano lessons starting at the age of eight and at 12 began playing saxophone. She performed in a youth big band and sang regularly in her father’s band as a teenager. At 17 she studied with Sheila Jordan, who encouraged her. Kopmajer also studied with Mark Murphy, Jay Clayton, and Michele Hendricks. Since earning a Masters from the University of Music and Dramatic Arts in Graz, Austria, Kopmajer has toured the Netherlands twice with the Euro Big Band, appeared at European jazz festivals, and recorded three CDs: Moonlight Serenade (for the Japanese Venus label), her best-known set Romance (for Zoho), and her privately released Taking a Chance on Love. Each CD emphasizes her own fresh versions of standards. (by Scott Yanow)

Jazz singer and pianist Simone Kopmajer performs songs composed by the likes of Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, the Brothers Gibb (The Bee Gees), Van Morrison, John Fogerty, Neil Young, and more. She brings a sensuous femininity to songs originally performed by Simone Kopmajer01iconic male musicians.

Born in Schladming, Austria, Simone Kopmajer already achieved at a young age what many musicians, bands and ensembles dream of – the launch of a successful international career. In the United States, Japan and Southeast Asia, the singer is a household name for lovers of demanding and refined jazz music. She fills large concert halls, performs as the headliner of major international festivals and has sold thousands of CDs worldwide. Her enthusiasm and love for music kindled at a very early age. She began to sing at eight, at twelve she sang in the band of her father, who was a music school director and a big jazz fan, and at sixteen she was accepted at the University of Music and Dramatic Arts in Graz, where she was immediately admitted due to her rare talent. In the year 2000 she debuted in the U.S. and left a lasting impression among quite a few experts and connoisseurs of contemporary jazz music. Simone Kopmajer’s role models were the great voices of jazz and American show business, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Jon Hendricks, although over time she detached herself more and more from these influences to find her own musical language.

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With her charisma and unbelievable talent, Simone Kopmajer manages to give her songs a very specific emotional, charming and in-depth note, which simply touches the people. Her sound is located somewhere between jazz, swing and tasteful pop. Although her music is very relaxed, flowing and elegant, it is also very playful and varied – these multilayered facets distinguished her early off from similar formats and made her music all the more interesting.

“Simone Kopmajer possesses a voice of incredible depth. Her approach to a song is understated sincerity.” – Jazz Review

“Simone is a real beauty inside and out – she sings and swings with remarkable clarity and she’s gonna be heard from.” – Mark Murphy

“She’s dynamite.” – Florida Today

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Personnel:
Jean-Paul Bourelly (guitar)
Margarethe Deppe (cello)
Simone Kopmajer (vocals)
Jamaaladeen Tacuma (bass)
Paul Urbanek (keyboards)
Reinhardt Winkler (drums)

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Tracklist:
01. Till There Was You (Willson) 3.56
02. Lost In Love (Russell) 4.20
03. Reality (Jordan/Cosma) 4.38
04. Heart Of Gold (Young) 3.06
05. That’s Why You Go Away (Richter) 3.22
06. First Of May (R.Gibb/B.Gibb/M.Gibb) 4.25
07. You’re My Everything (Whitfield/Grant/Penzabene) 5.08
08. Have I Told You Lately (Morrison) 5.39
09. Have You Ever Seen The Rain (Fogerty) 3.35
10. Lost Stars (Alexander/Lashley/Brisebois/Southwood) 4.20
11. The Morning Sun (Kopmajer/Urvanek) 4:23
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12. All You Need Is Love (Lennon/McCartney) 3.50
13. What´s Going On (Gaye) 4.46
14. Angie (Jagger/Richards) 4.26
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Tobias Meinhart – Silent Dreamer (2017)

FrontCover1Born in a small village in rural Bavaria, Tobias Meinhart has spent the last 15 years carving out a career for himself in the international jazz scene. Since his modest beginnings in Woerth, the tenor saxophonist has garnered acclaim in both Europe and the United States, earning a nomination for an ECHO award in 2016 and claiming residency at renowned New York City jazz venues such as The Blue Note, The Jazz Gallery, Jazz at Lincoln Center and Birdland.

Tobias began his musical life as a drummer before switching to the saxophone at age thirteen. He found inspiration in his grandfather, a classically trained bassist who began playing jazz in many of the U.S. Army clubs after World War Two. This early and intimate exposure to the music had a profound effect on young Tobias, leading him to hone his skills to a tee and win first prize in Germany’s Jugend Jazzt competition.

Tobias Meinhart04After touring throughout Germany with his quartet Fourscore, Tobias went to study at the Basel Music Academy in Switzerland, where the renowned European saxophonist Domenic Landolf served as his mentor. His teachers included Adrian Mears, Jorge Rossy and Wolfgang Muthspiel. He then went on to the Conservatorium van Amsterdam and the Bern University for the Arts to study with Ferdinand Povel and Andy Scherrer.

While still a student, Tobias caught the attention of critics and audiences throughout Europe. His band won first prize at the 2009 Startbahn Jazz Competition, as well as the “Audience Award for Best Group” at the 2009 Getxo Jazz Festival in Bilbao, Spain. Already endowed with more real world experience than many musicians have long after leaving school, Tobias graduated with honors and received a diploma in Jazz Performance and Music Education the same year that he won the prize at Getxo.

Shortly after Graduation, Tobias moved to New York City and quickly became immersed in the city’s highly competitive music scene. In 2012 he received his Master’s Degree from the Aaron Copland School of Music, where he studied with Antonio Hart, John Ellis and Seamus Blake. 2012 was also the year that Tobias returned to Getxo, now with his quintet, and earned not only first prize for the band’s outstanding performance, but also the “Best Soloist” award, and the opportunity to open for of his most forceful inspirations, Wayne Shorter.

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He has five albums out under his own name, with his newest effort, Berlin People, released in Spring 2019 on Sunnyside Records. It is a new band including guitar icon Kurt Rosenwinkel.

Aside from the numerous accolades already mentioned, Tobias has also toured Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Italy and Poland and opened for renowned saxophonist Chris Potter. He has been featured at many European jazz festivals including GetxoJazz and Elbjazz, and was part of a national Next Generation All-Star Orchestra. His 2015 album Natural Perception was praised by European and American critics alike, hailed by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as “jazz at it’s finest” and as “graceful and organic… subtle colors and delicate rhythms” in a five-star review in the New York City Jazz Record. In 2017, Tobias released Silent Dreamer which got a DOWNBEAT feature article describing him as “Not only a commanding saxophonist but also a keen composer”. (taken from his website)

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One of the best things about reviewing music is putting on a disc by an artist I’ve never heard of and being blown away by it. “Silent Dreamer,” by German saxophonist Tobias Meinhart, is one of the best CD’s I’ve heard this year. Meinhart had racked up a host of awards in Europe before moving to the United States to study with some of New York’s top saxophonists. He now resides in Brooklyn and works with a variety of groups. His fourth album, “Silent Dreamer,” is not only a vehicle for his bold tenor style, it’s also a showcase for his adventurous compositions and gorgeous arrangements.

The album is also brimming with superb solos and group playing by some familiar players, like trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and bassist Orlando Le Fleming, and some less familiar but equally powerful musicians. Yago Vazquez is excellent on piano, and Justin Carroll makes the synthesizer wail. Charles Altura crosses over into rock-fusion territory on every guitar solo, and Phil Donkin and Jesse Simpson are a formidable rhythm section on acoustic and electric bass and powerhouse drums. (by Ron Netsky)

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Personnel:
Justin Carroll (synthesizer)
Phil Donkin (bass)
Ingrid Jensen (trumpet, effects)
Tobias Meinhart (saxophone, electronics)
Jesse Simpson (drums)
Yago Vazquez (piano)
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Charles Altura (guitar bei 02., 03. + 04.)
Orlando LeFleming (bass bei 02., 03. + 06.)

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Tracklist:
01. Fighting For Fears (Meinhart) 5.38
02. Letter Of Intent (Vazquez) 4.54
03. Silent Dreamer (Meinhart) 5.51
04. Mariana’s Dream (Meinhart) 5.48
05. Can’t Say Enough (Simpson) 1.44
06. Equality (Meinhart) 6.08
07. Ghost Gardens (Meinhart) 6.54
08. Purple Space (Meinhart) 4.40
09. Simple Beauty (Meinhart) 6.11

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Clem Leek – America (2017)

FrontCover1.jpgClem Leek is a musician, composer and sound artist based in the UK. He creates modern classical ambient music which has been released on several independent labels.

Clem’s works are subtle and dreamlike, using pianos, guitars, ethereal pads, field recordings, and other solo instruments.

There always been something quite personal in the music of Clem Leek. Trained as a pianist from a young age and now a developed into a composer, sound artist, sound designer, and multi-instrumentalist, he has drawn heavily on his surroundings and life experiences from the very start; consider the misty, overcast reflections of growing up in England on Holly Lane (2010) and the intimate piano & guitar based sketches of Lifenotes (2011) and Rest (2013). The past year has apparently been on one of significant change for Leek and this is reflected in his latest opus and third studio album entitled America.

“America is a reflection of Clem’s personal transition from Europe to the U.S. Each track refers to new experiences, both information and sensory. Moving from the countryside to the city brought about a plethora of new friends, landscapes and routines and this is reflected in the new styles, instruments and techniques that have bled into the album. “

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One thing that has not changed a great deal, however, is Leek’s penchant for concise forms. He is a masterful musical sketch artist who captivates here with a dozen colorful vignettes of an expansive, filmic quality that belies their diminutive length. Leek can express more in two minutes than many artists can in ten as he uses lyrical piano lines and layers of strings, voice, & electronics to convey wide-eyed wonder and the willing embrace of both personal change & new opportunities so well symbolized by Chris Keenan’s striking rural highway scene gracing the album’s cover. This is one musical road trip you won’t want to miss.

There is genuine enthusiasm and empathy in these songs – they acknowledge and move through feelings and moods, without dwelling (as evidenced by shorter song lengths, for one). The count-in on “Progress” is sheer brilliance. (by bjorns)

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Personnel:
Clem Leek (all instruments)

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Tracklist:
01. Change 1.16
02. Challenger 2.55
03. Dorsay 2.00
04. Skyscraping 2.23
05. Streets 1.54
06. Snow Tale #5 1.23
07. New Day 3.02
08. The Breeze 3.35
09. What Happens Next? 2.18
10. City Birds 2.17
11. Progress 3.22
12. Endeavour 2.40

Music composed by Clem Leek

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Savoy Brown – Witchy Feelin’ (2017)

FrontCover1.jpgKim Simmonds founded Savoy Brown in October 1965. At 69 he still is Savoy Brown as the band is pretty much Kim Simmonds on guitar and vocals and whoever he has a back-line. Here we have him with Pat DeSalvo on bass and Garnet Grimm on drums doing a great job backing up this 69 year old British master of the blues guitar.

“Why Did You Hoodoo Me” is a nice an above mid-tempo blues rocker where Simmonds demonstrates his prowess on guitar for us. He questions why he’s been cursed by his woman in this slick production. Kim switches things up with ”Livin’ On The Bayou” with a little creole inspired stuff. A Cajun ballad with some pretty and somewhat ethereal guitar. “I Can’t Stop the Blues” has Simmonds growling out the lyrics in a song about loneliness. The guitar work is what this one’s all about- steady handed and cool. The title cut is up next, a cool slow blues with nice guitar picking, and a ghostly bass line and sound. “Guitar Slinger” picks up the tempo a little and gets into what the title says- guitar slinging. “Vintage Man” shuffles and shines nicely as Kin sings about being a vintage sort of guy in Levis, blue suede shoes and listening to his record player as he listens to and plays Jimmy Reed.

The slide comes out for “Standing In A Doorway.” Slow blues with voice and slide in a melancholy repartee, nicely done. “Memphis Blues” gives us a driving beat and some big guitar and some more slide, but this time it’s greasy and slick. “Can’t Find Paradise” is a big, blues rock anthem sort of piece with some more slide work.

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Simmonds guitar cries and wails in “Thunder, Lightning and Rain.” It’s a big cut with lots of guitar that goes on for nearly 8 minutes of 6 string soling to a steady bass and drum beat. The CD closes to “Close to Midnight,” a sultry and thoughtful instrumental of Simmonds showing us why he’s highly regard as a guitar man.

If you love Savoy Brown and Kim Simmonds then you’ll be spinning this CD a lot because this is right up your alley. Simmonds shows us he’s still got what it takes. The guitar is not overdone, but it’s big and impressively done. It’s a really enjoyable set of new songs all penned by Kim. (Steve Jones)

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Personnel:
Garnet Grimm (drums)
Pat DeSalvo (bass)
Kim Simmonds (guitar, vocals)

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Tracklist:
01. Why Did You Hoodoo Me 5:15
02. Livin’ On The Bayou 6.01
03. I Can’t Stop The Blues 5.27
04. Witchy Feelin’ 4.38
05. Guitar Slinger 3.53
06. Vintage Man 3.08
07. Standing In A Doorway 5.41
08. Memphis Blues 4.14
09. Can’t Find Paradise 4.30
10. Thunder, Lighting & Rain 7.56
11. Close To Midnight 4.08

All songs written by Kim Simmonds

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Don Airey – One Of A Kind (2018)

FrontCover1.jpgDonald Smith Airey (born 21 June 1948) is an English keyboardist who has been the keyboardist in the rock band Deep Purple since 2002, after the retirement of Jon Lord. He has had a long and productive career, playing with such acts as Gary Moore, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Whitesnake, Saxon, Wishbone Ash, Steve Vai, Colosseum II, Ten, Sinner, Michael Schenker, Rainbow, Empire, Thin Lizzy, Brian May, Divlje jagode and Living Loud. He has also worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber. (by wikipedia)

Don Airey can be considered rock royalty and in a quiet sort of way, and in down time from his Purple “day job”, finds the time to release consistently excellent solo albums. This is the successor to 2014′s excellent ‘Keyed Up’.

Like that album it’s as much a showcase for Airey’s fellow musicians most of whom are retained for this excursion. Vocalist Carl Sentance moonlighting from Nazareth and acquitting himself well away from McAfferty’s long shadow. And erstwhile Snakecharmer guitar slinger Simon McBride also features. McBride shines on the Gary Moore-esque ‘Remember To Call’ and makes a particularly good fist of ‘Still Got The Blues’ but more of that later.

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The tunes reflect Airey’s musical inclinations, and a career playing with such alumni as Ritchie Blackmore and Ozzy. There’s an uptempo Purple vibe on this offering, demonstrated on pieces like ‘Respect’ and ‘Stay The Night’. But there’s also some experimentation, such as the almost metal ‘Victim Of Pain’ and the frenetic ‘Lost Boys’. Together with a track like ‘Children Of the Sun’ Airey shows what Purple might be like if they fused with Judas Priest.

Standouts include the grind of ‘All Out Of Line’ and the deftly orchestrated title track. ‘Everytime I See Your Face’ might hint at ‘The Long & Winding Road’ but is nevertheless a good vehicle for Sentance’s softer underbelly. ‘Need You So Bad’ is another big ballad but spiced with McBride’s muscular riffage and Airey’s fluent keyboard work whilst ‘Running Free’ would make a radio-friendly single.

But if you are also partial to a bit of hairy Hammond (and some spicy synth) ‘One Of A Kind’ should tick your box. The album is padded out with a handful of bonus tracks (including Purple and Rainbow covers) recorded in Germany in 2017. This is where McBride gets to pay tribute to one of his great influences, the great Gary Moore with whom Airey also collaborated.

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On balance, perhaps not quite as diverse as ‘Keyed Up’ but in that respect certainly an album to excite latter-day Purple fans and surely one that will precipitate an outing if Don plays dates in his own right in the future. (by David Randall)

And the second CD is a bonus disc (recorded live at the Fabrik, Hamburg, 2017), including 4 classic Rock tunes

BackCover1.jpgPersonnel:
Don Airey (keyboards)
Laurence Cottle (bass)
Jon Finnigan (drums, percussion)
Simon McBride (guitar)
Carl Sentance (vocals)
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Steve Bentley-Klein (strings)

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Tracklist:

CD 1:
01. Respect (Sentance/Airey/McBride) 4.38
02. All Out Of Line (Sentance/Airey/McBride) 4.32
03. One Of A Kind (Sentance/Airey/McBride) 5.11
04. Every Time I See Your Face (Sentance/Airey) 3.21
05. Victim Of Pain (Sentance/Airey/McBride) 5.23
06. Running Free (Sentance/Airey) 4.50
07. Lost Boys (Sentance/Airey) 4.51
08. Want You So Bad (Sentance/Airey/McBride) 4.47
09. Children Of The Sun (Sentance/Airey) 4.02
10. Remember To Call (Airey/McBride) 3.42
11. Stay The Night (Sentance/Airey/Finnigan) 4.19

CD 2:
01. Pictures Of Home (Gillan/Paice/Lord/Blackmore/Glover) 5.51
02. Since You’ve Been Gone (Ballard) 3.41
03. I Surrender (Ballard) 4.13
04. Still Got The Blues (Moore) 6.36

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Daigo Hanada – Ichiru (2017)

FrontCover1.jpgA very discreet musician, Daigo Hanada is a young Tokyo-based pianist and composer sharing his time between his native Japan and Berlin. Apart from two Nils Frahm reworks and a one track contribution (“Again”) to the Piano Cloud Series – Volume One compilation released last year on the 1631 Recordings, Daigo Hanada has spent a lot of time maturing and perfecting his art away from the public eye. But when the first notes of “Silhouette” start playing, there is little doubt that Daigo Hanada is a very talented musician. His full-length solo début album Ichiru was released on 27 February 2017 last on the Montréal-based label Moderna Records.

“Equipped with only an upright piano, a pair of microphones and his two hands” read the official press release, “Hanada worked for the better part of a year on these pieces in bringing them to their final form”. As a result, Ichiru is a stripped-down and concise recording, going straight to the essential core of the compositions with the carefully placed microphones scrupulously capturing the live mechanics of the piano.

“Equipped with only an upright piano, a pair of microphones and his two hands” read the official press release, “Hanada worked for the better part of a year on these pieces in bringing them to their final form”. As a result, Ichiru is a stripped-down and concise recording, going straight to the essential core of the compositions with the carefully placed microphones scrupulously capturing the live mechanics of the piano.

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“It was raining heavily but a very quiet day – I was just sitting by the window and looking outside, watching the rain fall continuously but randomly. That’s when I got this idea of falling ambient sound in the back”.

The last two tracks on the album, both much longer than the rest, draw the music towards a more electro-acoustic and ambient texture with their layering and slightly saturated meandering notes.

Almost coming out of the blue, Daigo Hanada’s Ichiru is a subtle, very expressive and captivating début. (Guillaume, spellbindingmusic.com)

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Personnel:
Daigo Hanada (piano)

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Tracklist:
01. Silhouette 2.10
02.Butterfly 2.07
03. Weak Me 2.58
04. Fragment I 2.08
05. Portrait 0.57
06. Pfau 2.07
07. Ichiru 2.20
08. Hue 3.17
09. Fragment II 2.15
10. Solitude 2.46
11. And This Is How It Ends 4.09
12. Close 7.51

Music composed by Daigo Hanada

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Mavis Staples – If All I Was Was Black (2017)

FrontCover1.jpgIf All I Was Was Black is the thirteenth studio album by American R&B, soul and gospel singer Mavis Staples. It was released on November 17, 2017, by ANTI- Records. The album was written and produced by Jeff Tweedy.

The album’s announced on September 11, 2017. The album consists of 11 songs, all of which were written by Jeff Tweedy. Staples said she hoped the album will “bring us all together as a people. That’s what I hope to do. You can’t stop me. You can’t break me. I’m too loving. These songs are going to change the world.” Tweedy described the message of the album, saying, “I’ve always thought of art as a political statement in and of itself—that it was enough to be on the side of creation and not destruction. But there is something that feels complicit at this moment in time about not facing what is happening in this country head on.”

The lead single, “If All I Was Was Black”, was released on September 11, 2017, along with the album’s pre-order. “Little Bit” was released as the second single from the album on October 12, 2017. The third single, “Build a Bridge”, was released on November 7, 2017. “Ain’t No Doubt About It” was released as the fourth and final single on November 14, 2017. A music video for “If All I Was Was Black” was released on February 12, 2018.

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The year 2017 has been full of political unrest and growing racial division in the United States, but for good or ill, Mavis Staples has seen days like these before. As a teenager, she was a member of the Staple Singers, who in their days as a gospel group were close friends and allies with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as the struggle for civil rights was at its peak. They also experienced more than their share of violence and hostility as an African-American family band touring in the Deep South in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Mavis Staples was too strong to let hatred and narrow-mindedness break her when she was a twenty-something, and at the age of 78, she still isn’t about to back down. Released in 2017, If All I Was Was Black finds Staples once again collaborating with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, who produced the sessions and wrote the bulk of the songs, and while the lyrics tend not to focus on the specifics of the chaos that’s marked the time it was made, it’s definitely an album intended to speak to troubled times.

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As a woman of deep spiritual beliefs, Staples is the ideal vehicle for these songs, which often deal with hatred, inequality, and indifference while making clear that love and understanding have the capacity to heal America’s wounded spirit. Staples’ vocal style here is informed by equal parts vintage gospel and classic soul, and together they fill these messages with strength, compassion, and a much-needed sense of hope. The lyrics sometimes reflect Tweedy’s usual tropes as a writer, but Staples gives them a musical and emotional force that sets them apart.

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Her voice is in splendid shape for a septuagenarian, still supple and able to navigate the twists of the melodies while sailing confidently over the arrangements that fuse indie rock with the feel of ’70s soul. And if this set of songs is a bit short on specific answers to our problems, well, “We Shall Overcome” never explained how that would happen either. What’s most special about If All I Was Was Black is the way Staples and her collaborators confront the challenges of a distraught world while filling the listener with the belief that all is not lost, that we can get past bad times and build a better future if we try. Quite simply, this is an album America needs. (by Mark Deming)

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Personnel:
Stephen Hodges (drums, percussion)
Rick Holmstrom (guitar)
Glenn Kotche (percussion)
Scott Ligon (keyboards, clavinet, guitar)
Mavis Staples (vocals)
Jeff Tweedy (guitar, bass, percussion, vocals)
Spencer Tweedy (drums, percussion)
Jeff Turnes (bass)
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background vocals:
Donny Gerrard – Kelly Hogan – Akenya

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Tracklist:
01. Little Bit (Tweedy) 3.51
02. If All I Was Was Black (Tweedy/Staples 3.55
03. Who Told You That (Tweedy) 2:48
04. Ain’t No Doubt About It (featuring Jeff Tweedy) Tweedy 3:18
05. Peaceful Dream (Tweedy) 3.20
06. No Time For Crying (Tweedy/Staples) 4.36
07. Build A Bridge (Tweedy) 3.37
08. We Go High (Tweedy/Staples) 3.26
09. Try Harder (Tweedy) 3.51
10. All Over Again (Tweedy) 1.54

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