Album Review: The Staves – Dead & Born & Grown
Watford sisters Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor have made a good fist of their debut album. With a handful of EPs already behind them, the group have crafted a sound which falls somewhere between alt-country and traditional English folk. Inspired by Gillian Welch and the literate storytelling of Laura Marling, Dead & Born & Grown should see The Staves propelled further into the public consciousness.
All the elements of humble folksongs are in place: fingerpicked guitars, sandy drums and the occasional organ are all present, but the real appeal lies in the way that the sisters unite to deliver such rich harmonies. Their tightly-wound vocals are instantly foregrounded on opener Wisely & Slow, as verses are sung untouched by additional instrumentation for over a minute. Consequently, you’ll be sure from the off whether or not this kind of music is your cup of tea.
Although it isn’t immune to retreating into overly-safe territory, for the most part, Dead & Born & Grown is a sumptuous treat for the ears. Gone Tomorrow is an exquisite shuffle which progresses into a rapturous display of vocal talent, but the real riches are found when The Staves allow a chill to permeate the warm atmospheres. Winter Trees churns into an enchanting, rhythmic gallop, and the campfire stomp of Tongue Behind My Teeth brings a touch of spooky drama to the album’s latter half.
This rustic musical style is matched by tales of burgeoning relationships and pastoral tribulations, with the romance of golden rivers and snowy landscapes blotted by an undertone of melancholia. It’s not all vividly drawn, and occasionally some songs feel a mite too safe to really make their mark (for all their musical prettiness, Facing West and the title track are a touch too anodyne), but when The Staves allow the sparks to fly, the results can be dazzling. If they can hone their talents for future releases, it’ll be intriguing to see what direction they choose to take next.
Beautiful in its simplicity, and filled with sublime textures, Dead & Born & Grown is a warm and comforting collection, tailor-made to accompany the winter season.
“Holy Moses, everybody’s gone, packed up and moving on.”