The Staves – Dead & Born & Grown (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
EMILY STAVELEY-Taylor has described one of the nicest things in the world as being sung to. She hopes that after hearing The Staves’ debut album, Dead & Born & Grown that people will feel the same way too.
It’s safe to say they probably will. Combining bright English folk with sublime West Coast pop, this is an album steeped in classic song-writing values that has a timeless quality about it.
And it’s arguably why the three sisters were independently tracked down by legendary father and son producers Glyn and Ethan Johns (whose credits include The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon and Laura Marling) to work with.
Comprised of Jessica, Camilla and Emily, The Staves haven’t just shot up overnight, either. Their journey began during family car journeys, took in sing-alongs and squabbles over the stereo, and is drawn from the timeless likes of Simon & Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell and The Beatles.
They subsequently decided to base their song-writing around their vocal arrangements, which is one of the great pleasures of hearing their LP come together. Vocally, they are warm, sometimes delicate yet brimming with beauty.
And they are capable of mixing tempos well too, occasionally stripping things right down, or alternatively layering in the sounds to develop something bordering on rock.
Evidence of the latter is to be found on the robust Winter Trees, which builds from stark and borderline ethereal (conveying images of snow-covered, bare trees standing alone in a field) into something quite thrilling.
Such a moment comes in stark contrast to Wisely And Slow, which opens the album in virtually a capella fashion, as if deliberately making sure that it’s their voices that grab your attention first. It has an almost Deep Southern blues vibe, the kind of siren-like seduction that may have slipped onto the Coen brothers’ Oh Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack.
Following that, Gone Tomorrow has a dreamy folk vibe, The Motherlode charms by virtue of its sensual harmonies and quiet strumming and Pay Us No Mind captivates with its slow build approach, building from a lone but beautifully realised vocal set against a dusky guitar and some very low-key percussion.
Better still, Facing West thrives on its alluring mix of mandolin licks and ethereal whistles, delivering a beautiful day-dream of a song, while title track Dead & Born & Grown offers a similarly beautiful folk-pop arrangement.
Notable, too, is Mexico with its lush harmonies, longing lyrics and tick-tock acoustic guitar vibe (that eventually gives rise to a soaring, layered finale), and album closer Eagle Song, which begins with a blues-folk strum before gradually layering in the elements (including more mandolin) and ending with one of the LP’s most stunning vocal arrangements (“call me in the morning, I’ll be fine”).
Coming back to Emily’s hope for the record, that being sung to is the nicest thing in the world. If it’s by voices this beautiful, then you really can’t go wrong. The Staves look to have a very bright career ahead of them.
Download picks: Wisely & Slow, Pay Us No Mind, Facing West, Dead & Born & Grown, Winter Trees, Mexico, Eagle Song