“I’m the messenger,” Mavis Staples says on the eve of her 80th birthday. “That’s my job — it has been for my whole life — and I can’t just give up while the struggle’s still alive. We’ve got more work to do, so I’m going to keep on getting stronger and keep on delivering my message every single day.”
Hailed by NPR as “one of America’s defining voices of freedom and peace,” Staples is the kind of once-in-a-generation artist whose impact on music and culture would be difficult to overstate. She’s both a Blues and a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer; a civil rights icon; a GRAMMY Award-winner; a chart-topping soul/gospel/R&B pioneer; a National Arts Awards Lifetime Achievement recipient; and a Kennedy Center honoree. She marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., performed at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, and sang in Barack Obama’s White House. She’s collaborated with everyone from Prince and Bob Dylan to Arcade Fire and Hozier, blown away countless festivalgoers from Newport Folk and Glastonbury to Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo, performed with The Band at The Last Waltz, and graced the airwaves on Fallon, Colbert, Ellen, Austin City Limits, Jools Holland, the GRAMMYs, and more. At a time when most artists begin to wind down, Staples ramped things up, releasing a trio of critically acclaimed albums in her 70’s with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy that prompted Pitchfork to rave that “her voice has only gained texture and power over the years” and People to proclaim that she “provides the comfort of a higher power.” In between records with Tweedy, Staples teamed up with a slew of other younger artists — Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Nick Cave, Valerie June, tUnE-yArDs, and M. Ward among others — for Livin’ On A High Note, an album The Boston Globe called “stunningly fresh and cutting edge” and which first introduced her to Harper.
Patty Griffin is among the most consequential singer-songwriters of her generation, a quintessentially American artist whose wide-ranging canon incisively explores the intimate moments and universal emotions that bind us together. Over the course of two decades, the 2x GRAMMY® Award winner – and 7x nominee – has crafted a remarkable body of work in progress that prompted the New York Times to hail her for “[writing] cameo-carved songs that create complete emotional portraits of specific people…[her] songs have independent lives that continue in your head when the music ends.”
Widely regarded among the best pure songwriters of this or any other era, Griffin has had her work performed by a truly epic assortment of her fellow artists, among them Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, Solomon Burke, Kelly Clarkson & Jeff Beck, Martina McBride, and Miranda Lambert, to name but a few. Her songs have also been showcased in a variety of film, TV, and theatre projects, with her original music and lyrics featured in the 2007 musical, 10 Million Miles, produced Off-Broadway by the Atlantic Theatre Company and directed by Tony Award- winner Michael Mayer. Griffin has also been joined in the studio by a veritable who’s-who of contemporary Americana, including Harris, Buddy & Julie Miller, Shawn Colvin, Jim Lauderdale, Raul Malo, Ian McLagen, JD Foster, and many others. As if her own remarkable career weren’t enough, Griffin has found time to collaborate with a wide range of like-minded artists, among them Joshua Radin, Todd Snider, Dierks Bentley, Robert Plant, Jack Ingram, Gillian Welch, and David Rawlings.