Influenced by the likes of James Brown, Donny Hathaway and Mavis Staples, talented singer-songwriter Leela James has been making her own winning mix of bluesy soul and R&B for more than a decade. Her sixth studio album, Did It for Love (stream it below), which explores all the different sides of love, came out just a few weeks ago. “I don’t really try to think of concepts when I make music, I just go with the natural flow of the evolution of the making of the album,” James tells Rated R&B. “As I’m recording, sometimes it’ll take a life of its own. When I’m writing the songs, they’re usually based off direct and indirect experiences. It kind of tells its own story.” Touring in support of the new music, James (above, performing “Don’t Want You Back” for Baeble Music) has been making her way across North America with English singer-songwriter Daley (below, doing “Alone Together” live in concert), who’s known for mashing together soul, electronic music and pop into his own unique sound—and has been compared to Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall. See them both on Saturday night at the world-famous Apollo Theater.
Tag Archives: Mavis Staples
Mavis Staples – Music Hall of Williamsburg – May 9, 2014
“This is gonna be a good one tonight!” announced Mavis Staples, after the enthusiastic Music Hall of Williamsburg crowd greeted her soulful rendition of “I Like the Things About Me” with rousing cheers on Friday night. The legendary gospel and soul singer and civil-rights activist began singing as a child in her family’s band, the Staple Singers, may be nearly 75 year old, but she still continues to create and perform music that resonates with fans across generations.
Onstage, Staples was indeed a force—her powerful voice rich with emotion on songs like “One True Vine,” from her 2013 Jeff Tweedy–produced album of the same name— punctuating certain lines with a nice, deep growl. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member also revisited hits spanning her fruitful career, giving a spirited and perfectly funky rendition of the ’70s Staple Singers hit “Let’s Do It Again,” and bringing out the night’s opener, Amy Helm (daughter of the Band’s Levon Helm), for a version of “The Weight,” which the Staple Singers performed with the Band for The Last Waltz. Staples and her band also treated the crowd to a version of the ’60s civil-rights anthem “Freedom Highway,” a song inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. and the 1963 March on Washington.
Staples was rarely without a grin as she performed, enjoying the energy from the crowd and her band, playfully punching the guitarist’s arm and fist-bumping the drummer after impressive solos. And following a performance featuring decades of great music, Staples and Co. had one last song to revisit: “We’re gonna take ya’ll back down memory lane.” But then after scrutinizing the first few rows of the crowd, she jokingly added, “Ya’ll weren’t even born,” as the band launched into the undeniable hit “I’ll Take You There.” Despite what age or year audience members may have been introduced to Mavis Staples’ music, all in attendance would agree the singer is a true legend, sending the band off with joyful applause that the ever-humble Staples replied to with an smile and an appreciative “Shucks.” —Alena Kastin
Tags: Amy Helm, Jeff Tweedy, Levon Helm, Martin Luther King Jr., Mavis Staples, Music Hall of Williamsburg, One True Vine, Photos, Review, Staple Singers, the Band
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Mavis Staples is many things: a civil-rights icon, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and an R&B, gospel and soul legend. Her entrance into the music world began in the 1950s as the lead singer of her family’s band, the Staple Singers, which included her father, the aptly nicknamed Pops, and his four daughters. They became known across the world thanks to hit singles like “I’ll Take You There,” “Respect Yourself” and “City in the Sky.” But despite her long career, Staples isn’t content to just rest on her laurels, playing the hits. Instead, she continues to record and tour. Her last two albums, 2010’s You Are Not Alone (stream it below) and 2013’s One True Vine (stream it below), each produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, gained a considerable amount of acclaim. And now she’s back out on the road. See Mavis Staples (above, performing “I’ll Take You There” on Later … with Jools Holland, and below, covering “The Weight” with Wilco and Nick Lowe) play Music Hall of Williamsburg tomorrow night. Her goddaughter, Ollabelle’s Amy Helm, opens the show.
Love for Levon: A Benefit to Save the Barn – Izod Center – October 3, 2012
Levon Helm is a towering figure in American music and the main reason a band, well the Band, that was actually four-fifths Canadian could be considered quintessentially American. After Helm was diagnosed with cancer, he began hosting Midnight Rambles at his home barn/studio—ridiculously intimate affairs filled with music that kept onlookers smiling for days. And despite Helm’s passing, it was clear that the barn and the Rambles would continue. But, of course, there are bills to pay. So last night at the Izod Center, a monumental group of performers—those who had worked with the Band, performed with Helm or appeared at one of those fabled Rambles—gathered to pay tribute to the musical icon and help raise money to finally pay off the barn.
There were far too many talented people involved to list everyone, but the night started with a bang as Warren Haynes, backed by the Dirt Farmer Band, did a rousing version of “The Shape I’m In” before Gregg Allman joined him for a riveting “Long Black Veil.” From there a cavalcade of stars, including Bruce Hornsby, Jorma Kaukonen, Marc Cohn, the Wallflowers and Allen Toussaint, appeared. Lucinda Williams said, “God bless, Levon Helm. His spirit lives on,” after concluding “Whispering Pines.” And then the fist set closed with John Hiatt and Mike Gordon doing a lively “Rag Mama Rag.”
And while that first set was particularly great, the second one was something special. Highlights included Ray LaMontagne and John Mayer on “Tears of Rage,” the Dierks Bentley–led “Chest Fever,” with Garth Hudson laying down the winding “Genetic Method” organ intro, and Larry Campbell eliciting a big crowd response to the “Drink all day, rock all night” line in “Tennessee Jed” as Mayer rode shotgun on guitar. Then somehow the ante got upped once again. First, a jammy “Up on Cripple Creek” with Joe Walsh and Robert Randolph (“Jersey boys are here,” proclaimed Walsh), and then the house band ceded the stage to My Morning Jacket.
The five-piece launched into “Ophelia,” with the crowd throatily singing along, and “It Makes No Difference” before bringing out Roger Waters and G.E. Smith for “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Of course all of this was just a lead up to the night’s inevitable conclusion, everyone onstage for “The Weight.” Longtime Levon Helm Band members Campbell, Teresa Williams and Amy Helm rightfully took the first verse, accompanied only by Campbell’s guitar. And then Mavis Staples sang, and then Allman and Haynes. And then Grace Potter, Eric Church, John Prine, Jim James and everyone else took turns trading verses across the stage, before turning to Waters, center stage, singing, “You know I’m a peaceful man,” with smiles everywhere. It was hard to tell who was having more fun, the people in the crowd or those onstage. It was just one of those nights. —R. Zizmor | @Hand_Dog
Photos courtesy of Joe Papeo | www.irocktheshot.com
Tags: Allen Toussaint, Amy Helm, Bruce Hornsby, Dirt Farmer Band, Eric Church, Garth Hudson, Grace Potter, Gregg Allman, Izod Center, Jakob Dylan, Jim James, Joe Walsh, John Hiatt, John Mayer, John Prine, Jorma Kaukonen, Larry Campbell, Levon Helm, Lucinda Williams, Marc Cohn, Mavis Staples, Mike Gordon, My Morning Jacket, Photos, Review, Robert Randolph, Roger Waters, Teresa Williams, the Band, the Wallflowers, Warren Haynes
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Sometimes you want to see an all-star lineup of musicians performing together, and other times you want to support a great cause. But with tomorrow’s Love for Levon: A Benefit to Save the Barn at the Izod Center, you can actually do both. American icon Levon Helm may be gone, but his musical legacy and studio, home to the Midnight Ramble, remain. And so we’re all trying to pay off the barn together. The star-studded Love for Levon lineup includes Roger Waters (who counts the Arkansas Razorbacks baseball cap Helm gave him among his most treasured possessions), My Morning Jacket, Gregg Allman, Garth Hudson, Joe Walsh, Bruce Hornsby, Mavis Staples, Allen Toussaint and John Prine—plus a host of others, and maybe even some surprises, too. This is most certainly one not to miss.
Tags: Allen Toussaint, Bruce Hornsby, Garth Hudson, Gregg Allman, Joe Walsh, John Prine, Levon Helm, Love for Levon, Mavis Staples, My Morning Jacket, Preview, Roger Waters, Video
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