Mavis Staples a standout in National Folk Festival lineup

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The full roster of this year’s National Folk Festival in Greensboro has yet to be announced, but Triad City Beat has learned that gospel-protest-soul legend Mavis Staples has been added to the lineup. The festival takes place in Greensboro on Sept. 11-13.

Mavis Staples developed into the lead vocalist for the Staple Singers, a family group led by patriarch Roebuck “Pops” Staples that emerged in Chicago around 1950. The Staples evolved beyond their traditional gospel roots when Pops heard the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. The group began accompanying King, while developing a repertoire of freedom songs that gave voice to the civil rights movement. Still later, the group achieved commercial success when they signed to Stax Records and developed a mainstream soul following.

Based largely on the warm, resonant sound of Pops Staples’ guitar, which drew heavily on the family’s Mississippi roots, the Staple Singers’ music has left an indelible influence on blues, funk, soul and folk music.

Since the launch of her solo career in 1969, Mavis Staples’ artistic and commercial vitality has waxed and waned, including two albums produced by Prince in 1989 and 1993.

With her 2007 album, the Ry Cooder-produced We’ll Never Turn Back, Staples began a strong resurgence, consolidating her legacy as a major voice of social conscience and American roots music. Her two most recent albums, You Are Not Alone and One True Vine — both produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy — have both reinforced her stature.

The Staple Singers at the Wattstax festival in Los Angeles in 1972 

The last time Staples performed in the Triad was at Hanesbrands Theatre in Winston-Salem in 2010. Last month, Staples performed a well received set at the massive Glastonbury Festival in the United Kingdom.

Among the acts previously announced for the festival are Rhiannon Giddens, who returns to Greensboro as a native daughter whose career has exploded in the past year, along with honky-tonker Dale Watson, Baba Ken Okulolo & the West African Highlife Band and Japanese taiko drumming group Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka & the San Francisco Taiko Dojo.