As an American with dual British citizenship, I couldn’t help but feel pleased for my adopted country when English folk-rockers Mumford & Sons were nominated in the “Best Americana Album” category for the 2013 Grammy awards. They didn’t win, but it’s a revealing window into the American influence on the British folk scene at the moment.
At first listen, The Staves are another British band playing Americana-tinged English folk. However, these sisters’ sibling harmonies caught my ear because their voices melt together in just the right way. Fans of singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Priscilla Ahn, and Norah Jones will love their pure, clear vocals. Dead & Born & Grown is their first full-length release: a gentle, calming album, perfect for listening to whilst sitting outside in summer twilight with a cup of tea, enjoying the cooling evening. Each song is distinct and stands out on its own. Sisters Jessica, Emily, and Camilla equally share leading and harmonising.
They don’t see themselves as following the beaten path, in spite of the fact that they are increasingly popular right now, after supporting The Civil Wars, Bon Iver, and Band of Horses; performing at SXSW and Glastonbury; and being picked up by major record label Atlantic.
“We’ve been doing three–part harmony stuff and playing acoustic guitar for years, and it was never fashionable or cool,” says Jessica. “We were just doing it because it was what we’d always liked. It’s nice now that there are so many other people doing it, and it’s kind of accepted as cool.” [quoted to Jon Swaine, The Telegraph, 18 April 2013]
Dead & Born & Grown & Live, the bonus version of their debut album, was out yesterday on iTunes. It includes six live songs, five of which are already on the album.
Wisely and Slow, the song that opens the album, cuts through the stillness with the crystal clear line “Brother, you will never know, all the things I did for you, many years ago”. The first few minutes are sung entirely without musical accompaniment.
The six bonus tracks include live versions of both Wisely and Slow and my favourite, the strikingly beautiful Facing West.