The last time I heard from Ashley Beedle was when he released his installation in the Inspiration Information with Horace Andy. Now the UK DJ returns with another full length collaboration between he and Darren Morris under the moniker Mavis.
It’s hard to know what any Beedle project is going to sound like. The man is a chameleon. He started off as an acid house artist but then slowly moved his way into reggae, which is where we last left him. Mavis is definitely not reggae and its also not acid house. The group is named Mavis after soul singer Mavis Staple, so that should give you a huge hint about the sound. The group mixes classic soul with downtempo production. Most of the tracks have a piano back bone with understated horns or strings added. The group employs guest vocalists on every song. Guest vocalists include Kurt Wagner from Lambchop, Welsh singer/songwriter Cerys Matthews, Ed Harcourt, Sarah Cracknell of Saint Etienne, and 90s one hit wonder Edwyn Collins.
From the list, you can probably tell who are formidable and who leave something to be desired. Most of the female singer do a bang up job, but the best vocal performance in combination with songwriting go to Candi Staton. Her track, “Revolution” is a mixture of political and social consciousness and classic soul grooves. My main problem with the male vocalists are their voices aren’t very soulful. The tracks make them sound like Burt Bacharach more than Al Green. John Turrell’s “What You Looking For” is one of the better male vocalized songs. Turrell’s voice is smooth but with a hint of pain in it. The track’s downtempo-esque turntablism and Wurlitzer electric piano sound gives the track a hint of Ray Charles.
The album is highly stylized. It’s classic soul roots fits perfectly into the revival being headed up by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and Amy Winehouse, but its downtempo elements makes them applicable in the European scene fronted by groups like Massive Attack. The sound is cool and smooth, the perfect music to chill out to.