“Don’t lose this, here,” were the simple words Roebuck “Pops” Staples, musician and patriarchal Staples Singers band leader, said to his daughter Mavis, not long before he died in 2000.
He was talking about this collection of his final 10 recordings, made in 1998 and kept under wraps by Mavis for more than a decade. Revamped by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy – who produced the album and played bass and guitar on several tracks – Don’t Lose This serves as an elegant and delicately crafted homage to Pops’ legacy in blues.
His original vocals were left untouched, and their gravelly familiarity particularly elevates opener Somebody Was Watching and the intimate Nobody’s Fault But Mine. The album is an endearing family affair, featuring Tweedy’s son, Spencer, on drums, and Pops’s daughters – Cleotha, Yvonne and Mavis Staples – on backing vocals.
Though their input threatens to overpower his quivering guitar lines and languid vocal melodies, Don’t Lose This leaves an overwhelming celebratory impression. A gorgeously produced and emotive swansong.
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