The Staves - Dead & Born & Grown
They may be from Watford, but anyone listening to the opening track of Emily, Jessica and Camilla Stavely-Taylor's debut would be hard pressed to tell. The sisters bewitching harmonies evoke a sound of the Deep South by way of the Mid-West. Making sparse use of instruments, the real strength is The Staves' ability to create beautiful melodies without relying on a driving soundtrack. Indeed, the a cappella 'Wisely & Slow' introduces us first to their dreamy, soulful vocal talents and when instrumental support does appear it layers on so subtly that the listener would be forgiven for missing it altogether, that is until it kicks into a rousing, pounding drum-powered finale. It's a template that varies only mildly throughout the length of the album but they've hit on a sound that works and in the process have built an album of which they can be truly proud.
There are times when The Staves edge closer to more conventional folk, but these are fleeting and more as a result of their instruments of choice - the ukulele-driven 'Facing West' and album closer 'Eagle Song' both hinting at their acoustic roots, while 'The Motherlode' harks back to early Laura Marling with percussive guitars giving ample backing to the trio's angelic vocals. This may be a first album, but the result is career-defining stuff. It's beautiful, thoughtful and frankly outstanding music that relies not on production but raw, unbridled talent. If The Staves don't quickly join the ranks of Laura Marling and Bon Iver (who they're supporting on tour) then it would be a severe injustice.