Release Date: Mar 19, 2013
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Indie Folk
Dead & Born & Grown, the debut album from Watford, England-based sisters Emily, Jessica, and Camilla Staveley-Taylor, arrives on the heels of their well-received EPs Mexico and The Motherlode. The trio's first full-length outing, which was produced by Glyn and Ethan Johns and includes material from both of the aforementioned EPs, pairs the evocative British folk of Laura Marling and Sandy Denny with the rustic Americana of the Wailin' Jennys and Gillian Welch. Dead & Born & Grown leans harder on the latter, and if the siblings’ measured yet undeniably English phrasing weren’t so apparent, it would be easy to mistake them for Gram Parsons/Joni Mitchell-loving, Laurel Canyon songbirds instead of pub-bred, early-twentysomething lasses from the home counties.
To steal a phrase from Wisely & Slow, the opening track on the Staves' debut album: tender women, why is it you whisper when you really need to yell? It's clear from their lyrics that these three sisters from Watford aren't wilting wallflowers: their songs unflinchingly demonstrate the difficulty of reconciling love with a desire for autonomy. "I can't be married," youngest sister Camilla tells one man on In the Long Run, while on Snow, eldest sister Emily dismisses another as "a little child", assuring him that: "I will never belong to anyone. " Yet something gets lost in the translation to harmony: whether the sisters' gossamer voices are woven together or flutter alone, what you hear is a bloodless, polite prettiness.
Three photogenic sisters from Watford, a dozen modern folk tales and Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, The Vaccines, Rufus Wainwright) at the production helm are the core ingredients of a debut from the band whose very name has music running through its veins.Nearly all of the subject matter here hinges on love but in a way that is never contrived. ‘Winter Trees’ sees the girls gently reminiscing on past relationship mistakes before eagerly strummed guitars enter the fray, a technique quite possibly learnt from a certain Marcus Mumford. Elsewhere we have ‘Facing West’, a contemplative tale of longing which hinges on an infectious ukulele melody.
Personal tales told by three sisters dabbling in very Americana-flavoured folk. Fraser McAlpine 2012 Let’s get one thing straight from the off. If we don’t have to question why Tinie Tempah doesn’t Morris dance, and if we’re happy to let Alfie Boe go about his business even though he doesn’t do dubstep, we’re going to have to learn to judge earnest middle-class folkies according to the success of the noises they choose to make, rather than their socio-economic background.
Highlighting harmonies right up front, the Staves open their debut a cappella on "Wisely & Slow." While UK trio of sisters Emily, Jessica, and Camilla Staveley-Taylor prove natural complements, they offer little beyond that and subdued folk. Meditative almost to a fault on "Gone Tomorrow," "The Motherlode," and the title track, the undeniably subtle beauty of their tunes becomes lost in the lack of variation. Likewise, the songwriting trends to predictable formulas of ruminations upon nature leading to contemplations of love and loss, as on "In the Long Run," "Winter Trees," and "Facing West." The latter's whistles and coos smack of incongruity, out of touch with the song's desolation.