Mavis Staples announces Jeff Tweedy collaboration If All I Was Was Black

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Mavis Staples | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN

XPN Fest veterans and longtime friends Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco) have collaborated together a few times before, but the just-announced If All I Was Was Black is a particularly special project. Slated for a November 17 release on Anti- Records, the 10-track album was produced and written by Tweedy, with vocalist Staples contributing to the lyrics on three tracks. In addition to being the first full-length of original material the the two have worked on together, If All I Was Was Black takes on a political tone, addressing racial tension in a way that advocates for spreading love and positivity.

In a statement, Staples said, “We’re not loving one another the way we should. Some people are saying they want to make the world great again, but we never lost our greatness. We just strayed into division.”

Staples began performing music as a child in the 1940s and has toured for decades amid fraught racial climates, and emphasizes that despite current events, If All I Was Was Black is timeless, a glimpse at America’s past and present divisions from the perspective of an iconic musician who’s seen it all and thinks we could do better.

Tweedy said of the collaboration: “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.”

Previous Staples/Tweedy collaborations include 2010’s You Are Not Alone and 2013’s One True Vine.

Listen to the upbeat title track below and keep an eye out for the record this November.

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