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Album of the week : Dead & Born & Grown - The Staves

Perfect harmonies, haunting melodies and lyrics about more than just romance or unintelligible, surreal subjects – these ideas embody the sounds of the up-and-coming folk group The Staves

The Staves consists of three Watford born sisters: Camilla, Jessica and Emily Staveley-Taylor

Apart, their voices are merely pretty. But together, these girls create a sound that is both full and exquisite

Dead & Born & Grown is The Staves’ first full-length album and was produced by production dream team of Glyn Johns, the genius behind the Rolling Stones and The Beatles, and his son Ethan

Despite the land of their birth The Staves have produce an album that, both lyrically and musically, brings to mind the modern American folk scene. The haunting, almost gospel style vocals that float largely unaccompanied across the opening track ‘Wisely & Slow’- with lines such as “sits in silent sorrow with a bottle in her hand” - conjure up the kind of imagery normally associated with artists such as Gillian Welch or Sharon Van Etten

Title track ‘Dead & Born & Grown’ sets the tone for the album with stunning vocals and a simple acoustic guitar line. Eventually the harmonies stagger in and what beautiful harmonies they are. As well as complex harmonies and intricate acoustic accompaniments, The Staves also have a knack for writing memorable tracks. ‘Facing West’ is a charming little ukulele number which features pure vocals and a charming whistling tune which gives the track character. ‘The Motherlode’, ‘Winter Trees’ and ‘Wisely & Slow’ all stand out as their hooks are particularly strong and their harmonies very impressive

‘In The Long Run’ has a sweet acoustic guitar that accompanies the sisters’ even sweeter vocals. The innovative vocal melody in the chorus really sets this track above the rest, making it a favourite along with ‘Mexico’. ‘Mexico’ originally came from Mexico EP (2011) and is The Staves’ most commercially friendly track, one that’s sure to stay in your head for a very long time

On ‘Winter Trees’, their voices have that cold sharp precision born of the Anglo folk tradition, while ‘In The Long Run’” explores a more American flavour, and their harmonies embody the innocence of West Coast hippie idealism

‘Snow’ is a song of strengthening independence that commands your attention from start to finish. It is the mark of a perfect piece of music and doesn’t stop just at this beginning song; the whole album seems to keep your ears pricked

But The Staves aren’t all about sweet lullabies.‘Tongue Behind My Teeth’ is a song that proves this trio can embody a tough, take-no-prisoners attitude; however, the music video may have something to do with this

‘Pay Us No Mind’ may seem like a lullaby, but it’s lyrically fierce. The vulgarity (“pick me up, wish me luck, fare-ye well, I don’t give a fuck anymore”) used works as a kind of break from their prim and proper phrasing, but the emotion isn’t overdone and doesn’t feel forced

The whole album is laced with a juxtaposition of youthful acknowledgement and an older wiser, melancholy  and muted outrage at life’s disappointments, the second track on the album “Gone Tomorrow” with sample lyrics of “But I’m only 23, I’m waiting here all year” being a prime example of this

Overall Dead & Born & Grown is a beautifully melancholic album that mixes gentle acoustic melodies with razor sharp lyrics that suggest a world weariness well beyond the sisters’ relative youth and should be on heavy-rotation on any thinking music fan’s record player

Buy it here. You won’t regret it

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