We'll Never Turn Back

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We'll Never Turn Back
We'll Never Turn Back CA.jpg
Studio album by Mavis Staples
Released April 24, 2007
Recorded 2007; Sound City Studio, Van Nuys, California
Genre Gospel, soul, blues
Length 57:48
Label ANTI-
Producer Ry Cooder
Mavis Staples chronology
Have a Little Faith
We'll Never Turn Back
Live: Hope at the Hideout
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars[1]
Chicago Sun-Times 3.5/4 stars[2]
Robert Christgau (A-)[3]
Entertainment Weekly (B+)[4]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[5]
The Independent 5/5 stars[6]
The New York Times (favorable)[7]
PopMatters (7/10)[8]
USA Today 3.5/4 stars[9]
The Washington Post (favorable)[10]

We'll Never Turn Back is the eleventh studio album by American gospel and soul singer Mavis Staples, released April 24, 2007 on ANTI- Records. Recorded in 2007 and produced by roots rock and blues musician Ry Cooder, it is a concept album with lyrical themes relating to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Upon its release, We'll Never Turn Back received positive reviews from most music critics. It was also named one of the best albums of 2007 by several music writers and publications.


Critical response[edit]

We'll Never Turn Back received positive reviews from most music critics.[11] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 76, based on 14 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".[11] Allmusic writer Thom Jurek gave it three-and-a-half out of five stars and commended Staples for her vocal ability and performance, while calling it "the kind of album we need at the moment, one that doesn't flinch from the tradition but doesn't present it as a museum piece either".[1] The Boston Globe's Renée Graham praised Staples's singing and additional songwriting on the album, stating "Mavis Staples doesn't so much sing a song as baptize it in truth".[12] Caroline Sullivan of The Guardian praised her performance, stating "Staples is magnificent… Her voice is in tatters by the closing 'Jesus Is On the Mainline', and the memory lingers long after those ragged final notes".[5] Entertainment Weekly's Will Hermes gave We'll Never Turn Back a B+ rating and described Staples's voice as "rich, weathered, and full of fire".[4] Evening Standard writer Pete Clark gave it four out of four stars and praised Ry Cooder's production.[13]

Jon Pareles of The New York Times called the album "bluesy, unvarnished, gutsy and knowing", and he described its music as "righteous, not self-righteous, and never far from roots in the Mississippi mud".[7] However, PopMatters writer Lester Feder expressed that its "musical sophistication" can overshadow Staples's lyrics, stating "the album’s sound is so easy on the ears that it is extremely tempting to let it drown out the challenging sentiments of her words".[8] In his consumer guide for MSN Music, music critic Robert Christgau gave We'll Never Turn Back an A- rating,[3] indicating "the kind of garden-variety good record that is the great luxury of musical micromarketing and overproduction. Anyone open to its aesthetic will enjoy more than half its tracks".[14] Christgau praised Staples's performance and wrote "she doesn't merely revive rousing old songs--she brings their moral passion into the present".[3] Both USA Today and the Chicago Sun-Times gave it ratings of three-and-a-half out of four stars.[2][9] Jim DeRogatis of the latter publication wrote that Staples "infuses the material with a passion and urgency undiminished by the passing of time",[2] and he discussed the relevance of the album's themes to current events, stating:

In many corners, from grammar school social studies classes to the studio occupied until only recently by Don Imus, the Civil Rights movement of the early '60s is ancient history. But as the federal response to Hurricane Katrina sadly illustrated, institutionalized racism has hardly disappeared. Rather than an exercise in nostalgia, the eighth solo album of Mavis Staples' long and storied career is therefore as vital and relevant as today's headlines.[2]

— Jim DeRogatis

The Washington Post's Bill Friskics-Warren shared a similar sentiment in his review, writing "Staples reinvests… with the moral authority to speak to social and economic injustices that persist today" and "rarely have 'remakes' sounded so tonic or inspired".[10] The album received an A rating from the Boston Herald, which wrote "In the course of celebrating a landmark, Staples and Cooder make one of their own".[15] We'll Never Turn Back also received perfect ratings from The Independent and NOW magazine.[6][16] LA Weekly's Ernest Hardy gave it a rave review and lauded the album's sound, writing "Powerfully raw, suggestive blues is the foundation of the CD, but that root allows the collaborators to sprawl through other genres, reminding you of the connections between them all — blues and gospel, spirituals and jazz".[17]


We'll Never Turn Back was named one of the best albums of 2007 by several music writers and publications, including PopMatters (number 11) and The Austin Chronicle (number five).[18][19] The album was ranked number 48 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the Top 50 Albums of 2007.[20] Los Angeles Times columnist Todd Martens named We'll Never Turn Back the second best album of the year,[21] and Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune ranked it number one on his list of the best albums of 2007.[22]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Down in Mississippi" J. B. Lenoir 4:57
2. "Eyes on the Prize" Traditional 4:06
3. "We Shall Not Be Moved" Traditional 4:31
4. "In the Mississippi River" M. Jones 4:26
5. "On My Way" Traditional 4:10
6. "This Little Light of Mine" Ry Cooder, Traditional 3:22
7. "99 and 1/2" Ry Cooder, Mavis Staples, Traditional 4:46
8. "My Own Eyes" D. Bartlett, Ry Cooder, Mavis Staples 7:18
9. "Turn Me Around" Traditional 3:52
10. "We'll Never Turn Back" Bertha Gober 4:06
11. "I'll Be Rested" Ry Cooder, Joachim Cooder, Mavis Staples 5:44
12. "Jesus Is on the Main Line" Mavis Staples, Traditional 6:31


Credits for We'll Never Turn Back adapted from liner notes.[23]

Chart history[edit]

Chart Provider(s) Peak
Certification Sales/
Billboard 200 (U.S.)[24] Billboard 180 Not certified N/A
Billboard Independent Albums (U.S.)[24] 20
Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (U.S.)[24] 99


  1. ^ a b Jurek, Thom. Review: We'll Never Turn Back. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2009-11-08.
  2. ^ a b c d DeRogatis, Jim. "Review: We'll Never Turn Back". Chicago Sun-Times: April 29, 2007.
  3. ^ a b c Christgau, Robert. "Review: We'll Never Turn Back". MSN Music: May 2007. Archived on 2009-11-08.
  4. ^ a b Hermes, Will. Review: We'll Never Turn Back. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on 2009-11-08.
  5. ^ a b Sullivan, Caroline. Review: We'll Never Turn Back. The Guardian. Retrieved on 2009-11-08.
  6. ^ a b Gill, Andy. Review: We'll Never Turn Back. The Independent. Retrieved on 2009-11-08.
  7. ^ a b Pareles, Jon. Review: We'll Never Turn Back. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2009-11-08.
  8. ^ a b Feder, Lester. Review: We'll Never Turn Back. PopMatters. Retrieved on 2009-11-08.
  9. ^ a b Gardner, Elysa. Review: We'll Never Turn Back. USA Today. Retrieved on 2009-11-08.
  10. ^ a b Friskics-Warren, Bill. Review: We'll Never Turn Back. The Washington Post. Retrieved on 2009-11-08.
  11. ^ a b We'll Never Turn Back (2007): Reviews. Metacritic. Retrieved on 2009-06-11.
  12. ^ Graham, Renée. Review: We'll Never Turn Back. The Boston Globe. Retrieved on 2009-11-08.
  13. ^ Clark, Pete. Review: We'll Never Turn Back. Evening Standard. Retrieved on 2009-11-08.
  14. ^ Christgau, Robert. "CG Keys to Icons: Grades 1990-". RobertChristgau.com. Retrieved 2010-02-28. 
  15. ^ Columnist. "Review: We'll Never Turn Back". Boston Herald: 24. April 23, 2007.
  16. ^ Perlich, Tim. Review: We'll Never Turn Back. NOW. Retrieved on 2009-11-08.
  17. ^ Hardy, Ernest. Review: We'll Never Turn Back. LA Weekly. Retrieved on 2009-11-08.
  18. ^ Staff. The Best Albums of 2007. PopMatters. Retrieved on 2009-11-08.
  19. ^ Best Albums of 2007. Metacritic. Retrieved on 2009-11-08.
  20. ^ Robert Christgau, David Fricke, Christian Hoard, Rob Sheffield (December 17, 2007). The Top 50 Albums of 2007 Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
  21. ^ Martens, Todd. The 20 Best Albums of 2007. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 2009-11-08.
  22. ^ Kot, Greg. Best of 2007: 20 Thrilling Albums. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved on 2009-11-08.
  23. ^ Credits: We'll Never Turn Back. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2009-11-08.
  24. ^ a b c Mavis Staples Artist Chart History at Billboard

External links[edit]