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The Staves

The singing Staveley-Taylor sisters were doing it for themselves when English contemporary folk music seemed to be spreading in other directions. Recalling the heady Laurel Canyon days when JONI MITCHELL was mistress of the airwaves, Emily, Jessica and Camilla – the latter pair also on acoustic guitar and ukulele respectively – had plied their harmonies in 2010 as The Horns on open-mic nights at their local pub in Watford.
At the suggestion of a friend, the Hertfordshire heroines changed their moniker to The STAVES and, almost immediately, the strength of their heavenly harmonies were tested on TOM JONES’ blues album, `Praise And Blame’ (2010). Subsequently supporting on tour KEANE alumni Tim Rice-Oxley and Jesse Quin on their MT. DESOLATION country-rock side-project, Jessica was invited to stick around to perform on the duo’s eponymous set for Island.
In the meantime, The STAVES self-released their inaugural record, `Facing West’, a glorious track (very THIS IS THE KIT) that has since become their signature tune and probably the catalyst to them signing to the mighty Atlantic corporation. From October 2011 to April the following year, The STAVES served up three singles that went under the radar: `Live At Cecil Sharp House’ (showcasing `Gone Tomorrow’ and `Silver Dagger’), the `Mexico EP’ (comprising `Mexico’, `Icarus’ and `I Try’) and their first official catalogue release, `The Motherlode EP’ (featuring the lead track plus `Pay Us No Mind’ and the C&W-esque `Wisely And Slow’).
With this armoury of tracks behind them and a slot for `Facing West’ on BBC2’s promotional interlude caption, several songs re-appeared on their breakthrough Top 50 set, DEAD & BORN & GROWN (2012) {*7}. Produced by Glyn Johns and his son Ethan, and with further exposure for `Facing West’ on the Later… with Jools Holland TV show, The STAVES had propelled the art of singing with a grace and solemnity. DEAD & BORN & GROWN & LIVE (2013) {*6} was basically the debut set: in concert, in track order, and with a bonus disc (“Live At The Scala”) of outtakes.
Across the waters, the Staveley-Taylors had already broken new ground for a British folk act, appearing at SXSW, on an Austin to Boston tour, plus as support to The CIVIL WARS and, more importantly, as further support to BON IVER. Significantly, albeit a few years down the line, Justin Vernon took up the mantle to produce The STAVES on their sophomore Top 20 set, IF I WAS (2015) {*7}. With harmonies binding and strong, backed by occasional orchestral manoeuvres in the “light”, the siblings’ LAURA MARLING-meets-The CORRS soft-rock was catering for an American market. Whether the States would take the bait of The STAVES’ genuine and compulsive singing was questionable, but in `Blood I Bled’, `Black & White’, `The Shining’, `Teeth White’ and `Sadness Don’t Own Me’, it was certainly worth the effort.
On a somewhat different and challenging level to their 7-inch single, `Tired As Fuck’, The STAVES and New York City-based classical/chamber-pop sextet, yMusic, put their collective heads together to come up with a compromise LP and download-album, THE WAY IS READ (2017) {*6}. yMusic had already collaborated with the likes of BEN FOLDS, JOHN LEGEND and DIRTY PROJECTORS, so this rare meeting of harmonies and strings/wind for Nonesuch Records was enlightened by warm and wistful pieces such as `Trouble On My Mind’, `All The Times You Prayed’, `Appetite’ and the concluding title track.
© MC Strong/MCS Apr2015-Dec2017

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