The Staves – The Motherlode EP (2012)

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The Staves arrive as the very image of a twee sibling act — and you prepare yourself for another sweetly unthreatening batch of folk tunes. But this is an aptly titled EP, full of musical (and emotional) surprises. They never fall into the von Trapp trap.

Take the title track, this haunting moment of intertwined harmony that’s at once heartbreakingly beautiful and also devastatingly sad — a feminine version of the early Simon and Garfunkel sides, but with a third, close-singing presence. Musically, there is a similar sense of layered complexity, as the Staves blend rigid Appalachian acoustic signatures with a quieter, more contemplative chamber pop feel.

The Staves — twentysomething British sisters Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor — grew up singing, but rather than grow comfortable, that sense of casual yet deeply felt symbiosis drives them into ever more interesting places. And people have started listening, famous people. The Staves have already been asked to open for the Civil Wars, Ben Howard, Mumford and Sons and Michael Kiwanuka. Last month, they made a celebrated trip to South by Southwest. Next comes a touring spot with Bon Iver and in the coming days the arrival of their third nu-folk EP, produced by the father-son producing team of Glyn and Ethan Johns — who together have worked with, oh, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Eagles, Ryan Adams, Ray LaMontagne, Joan Armatrading and the Kings of Leon, among others.

Some of the power and heft of this music, to be sure, comes from its influences. There is something of Crosby Stills and Nash to be found here, and Joni Mitchell, and Stevie Nicks, and Emmylou Harris, and James Taylor, and Neil Young from his Harvest period — and, to bring these references into the new era, Laura Marling and Fleet Foxes. But The Motherlode is propelled not so much by those older sounds as it is by the ones that only these three voices can make, and the sense of community that only families can convey.

“Pay Us No Mind” boasts a shimmering sense of determination, while “Wise and Slow,” a swooning largely acapella narrative, closes the EP on a delicately involving note. They stand alone in the middle of the track, singing with a raw, uninhibited force — and the only complaint becomes the heart-splashing brevity of this release. At three tracks, The Motherlode is, quite literally, over almost before it really gets going.

But there is more on the way, as the Staves promise a full-length project later this year.

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Click HERE to sample and purchase music from the Staves’ ‘Motherlode EP’ through Amazon.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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