“Give me a one way ticket, somewhere I’ve never been/I’m rock, paper, scissors and I’m bound to win,” sings Staples, her inimitable purr backed by a strutting bass-and-guitar groove. She adopts an optimistic outlook for the future, though not one that happens without some hard work and sacrifice. It’s an earthy, uplifting sound reminiscent of the Staple Singers’ classic “I’ll Take You There,” complete with some electric guitar curlicues that nod to the lasting influence of — as well as Staples’ role in defining — Muscle Shoals and Stax Records soul.
We Get By, featuring a group of all original songs penned by Harper for Staples, offers meditations on civil rights, gun violence and progressive work yet to be finished in the United States. She previously released the song “Change” as the first taste of the album.
In May, Staples will celebrate her 80th birthday with a series of concerts in New York, Los Angeles and Nashville. Guests will be different at each show, but performers announced so far include David Byrne, Jason Isbell, Jon Batiste, John Prine, Elle King and Benjamin Booker. Proceeds from the events will go toward Newport Folk Festival Foundation’s work with music education programs.