Pops Staples: Don't Lose This

The deep, rich sound of Pops’ guitar captures the immense spirit of a human being that cannot be seen in the physical manifestation of a man.

Pops Staples

Don't Lose This

Label: Anti-
US Release Date: 2015-02-17
UK Release Date: 2015-02-16

Pops Staples put his own inimitable stamp on the blues, although he himself rejected the blues label and called his music gospel. His belief in God takes center stage, but his is a loving lord. Pops acknowledges the problems of poverty, addiction, sin, and such. After more than 80 years on the planet as a black man from the South, Pops knew right from wrong even when he was on the losing end. But he never gave up faith.

Staples began taping Don’t Lose This back in 1998 at the urging of his kin. The patriarch was not healthy, but with the help of his family he was able to make one more album. However, the demos were somewhat rough and never released until now. His daughter Mavis brought it to her recent producer, Jeff Tweedy, of Wilco, and asked him to help her get the material in shape. Tweedy added post-production playing and vocals (by himself and others) that smoothly blended with the original recordings. The results sound clear and immediate, with Pops’ ministerial voice (as well as the vocals of his talented daughters) and resonating guitar ringing loud and proud.

Perhaps it is merely a function of age, but Pops sings with a confidence in his message of faith and an awareness of our own human frailties without condescension. We all might be sinners, but we can be redeemed. On one of the most powerful tracks, “Nobody’s Fault but Mine”, Pops acknowledges how easy it is to blame others for one’s problems and reminds us to look at ourselves for the answers. As another song makes clear (“Love on My Side”), one may be homeless, poor, hungry, and broken but one can still find salvation in God’s love. The deep, rich sound of Pops’ guitar captures the immense spirit of a human being that cannot be seen in the physical manifestation of a man dressed in rags with alcohol on his breath.

Most listeners will recognize the old hymn “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”, because of its importance to contemporary country music vis a vis the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band album of that title. However, Pops performs it as a spiritual tune far from its country connotations. This version calls for a congregational hallelujah more than a generational sharing of roots. Pops celebrates the end of life as a time of glory. The other song most listeners would know is Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody”. As with "Will the Circle Be Unbroken”, Pops takes an upbeat approach to the lyrics and melody. Serving the lord brings one joy and nobody but a fool would serve the devil. It’s like asking one whether they would choose a life of pleasure or a life of pain -- a real no brainer.

Dylan had covered the Staple Singers early in his career, and they had recorded several of his compositions. Dylan even proposed marriage to Mavis, who turned him down. Hearing Pops sing Dylan here, with Mavis assisting, makes one wonder how fruitful that relationship could have been from a musical perspective. That conjecture aside, Pops' rendition of Dylan is just one of the many highlights on this record of a singular musician who left his mark on music without ever taking his eyes, heart, and soul off the lord. All of the songs, the traditional material, the self-penned cuts, the well-known tracks, reveal Pops’ enormous talent. He found his inspiration in God and encouraged the rest of us to find the love within ourselves and share it with others.






A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.