Before I watched the Mavis Staples biopic, MAVIS!, I had no idea how crucial Pops Staples’ role as bandleader to his offspring in the Staple Stingers truly was. Beyond simply providing instrumental and vocal support for the group, he always had a progressive style that mixed Delta blues, with Chicago blues, with whatever urban sounds were de rigueur and could push the sound forward.
Though Pops passed away in 2000, his last album, Don’t Lose This was released this past February after getting mixed and remastered by Mavis and her good friend/Wilco frontman, Jeff Tweedy. The collection of songs was recorded in 1999 and was originally going to feature the Staples sisters, but they opted out of vocal duties to let their father record a final collection of personal tunes. “Somebody Was Watching” is the lead track on the posthumous release and it’s an accumulation of all the styles and influences that the Staples Patriarch experienced and processed throughout his long, successful career.
It’s a blues track, an R&B track, and a gospel track. His voice is a little wizened, but his lyrics are hopeful and thankful, referencing the hardships and successes he had seen in his 86 years. Mavis has had her hand in the recording process as well, and you can hear her in the background providing immaculate, soulful refrains.
It is a perfect tune that has been in my head today for no other reason than it’s excellence, and I hope you guys dig. Check out a snippet from the documentary below to hear Mavis discuss her father’s final album.