The Staves are a band you may or may not be familiar with. They seem to have been 'around' for a while, gradually working their way into our subconscious, yet you may be surprised to hear that Dead & Born & Grown is their debut album. Yes, they've featured on albums by Tom Jones and Fionn Regan, released 4 EPs, played SXSW and are (and have been) supporting Bon Iver on tour but this is their first independent album release.
The Stavely-Taylor sisters, Emily, Jessica and Camilla don't sound as though they are likely to be found playing Hard-Core or Death Metal which is fortuitous as they play rather nice folk music which has a particularly delightful Englishness about it. As fans of Joni Mitchell, you might expect a 70s shadow across their songs but they share a closer affinity to their kindred spirit Laura Marling. Ethan Johns (Co-producer with his father Glyn) may even have been drawn to the band after enjoying his time with Marling on her last two albums. The similarly impressive results would certainly suggest a strong musical chemistry exists between the band and their producers.
Dead & Born & Grown starts with an a cappella arrangement of flawless purity. 'Wisely & Slowly' showcases the 3 part vocal harmonies of the sisters perfectly. The angelic and choral tones are warm and comforting but tell a harrowing tale (Tell me all you need to tell. Why is it you whisper when you really need to yell?) only accented towards the end by the addition of instrumentation. The stirring and striking opener turns into a more gentle and laid back calm with the mellow vocals and jangly guitars of 'Gone Tomorrow'. 'The Motherlode', a Marling like composition, introduces an accordion and a beat that fair skips along to the beautifully balanced harmonies. A Country lilt pervades 'Pay Us No Mind' before the ukulele is brought out on 'Facing West'. As the initial individual higher pitched vocal sings out "Your voice is like silver" you can't help but agree. The simplest of accompaniments and lightest of arrangements are used to great effect here.
By the time you get to the title track there is nothing not to like, although the odd interjection of pace or a powerfully played piece of impertinent or piquant instrumental punctuation wouldn't go amiss. 'Winter Tress' is the nearest we get to this. The locomotive beat livens up the relaxed set after its cautious introduction. The new single 'Tongue Behind My Teeth' follows on in a similarly up beat fashion. "Patience is a virtue and mine with you is wearing thin" the girls sing as this Fleetwood Mac flavoured tune strums along. 'Mexico' returns to a softer and slower pace before another LM like tune 'Snow', and then 'Eagle Song', close out the 12 song set with more well versed lyrics sung by the gorgeous combination of voices.(Make sure you listen to the very end!)
Dead & Born & Grown by The Staves is an accomplished first album that neatly showcases their talents. The vocal harmonies are beautifully sung and wonderfully arranged. The album remains true to itself throughout; it never tries to be something it's not. It is English folk. It is quite proper and precise and it has a purity that is worth celebrating.
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