Mavis – Presented by Ashley Beedle and Darren Morris review

Artist: Mavis
Title: Mavis presented by Ashley Beedle and Darren Morris
Label: K7
Genre: Funk/Rare Groove/Reissues
Format: CD, Digital
Buy From: Juno Records, Juno Download

Anyone with any preconceptions about this album had better read the small print first: this is an album concept that beggars belief! After getting back into the seductive soul of Mavis Staples, House legends Ashley Beedle and Darren Morris made a 58 bpm ballad in the style of their new obsession, and sent it to Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner (previously a guest on X-Press 2’s Give It). Thankfully, the idea snowballed into a whole album. The boys sent the same beat to a host of other vocalists, and made adjustments to each backing track over the course of the whole album.

It starts appropriately with the original, complete with Kurt Wagner’s smokey vocals. But despite the apparent limitations, every song is fresh, unique and essential. Candi Staton’s “Revolution” is anthemic, string-laden genius and absolutely dripping in soul (also included is a well-earned extended mix). The stripped-down Ed Harcourt track “Puzzles and Riddles” is also a gem, made up of his smooth vocals, some piano and some mesmerising effects and production. Cerys Matthews also turns in a wonderful performance on “Nemesis Required”, which has the brilliant chorus “Things been awful quiet, nemesis required”. Other vocalists to lend their talents for the love of Mavis include Chris Coco, Crazy P’s Danielle Moore, Edwyn Collins and St Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell.

As a tribute to a legend, this is top notch. But don’t let the novelty fool you – Ashley and Darren have unexpectedly made one of the most sweet and soulful albums in recent years. An amazing idea, and more importantly, an album full of brilliant and beautiful songs. Highly recommended.

Review: Oliver Keens