Watching The Staves @ The Hare & Hounds, Birmingham 28 November 2012

Catch ’em while they’re hot, as they say….and having recently been on the Jools Holland TV show, The Staves are about as hot as a trio of close harmony singing sisters from Watford can get.

I’d already seen them at the 2011 Moseley Folk Festival in what must have been a very early gig for them and they held the attention of the mid-afternoon crowd with the  quality of their singing and their material .  So, when they showed up at a local watering hole, it seemed rude not to go, really.  As a pub, The Hare & Hounds has little to recommend it, but the larger upstairs music room is excellent, with a high stage permitting decent sightlines from anywhere and good acoustics as well.

The Staves Portrait

The Staves – wonderful singers with an air of faded innocence

Things have moved on at a smartish lick for the Staveley-Taylor sisters since I last saw them.  Apart from the Jools Holland thing – which seems to have galvanised their career in a similar fashion to The Civil Wars last year – they have toured the UK a couple of times,  then toured in the USA with Bon Iver,  played support to them in front of thousands at Wembley Arena and released their first album,   ‘Dead & Born & Grown‘ (produced by eminence grise  Glyn Johns and his son, Ethan) in October.

The portents are promising for Camilla, Jessica and  Emily, who seem every bit as nice as those names would suggest.  Their Watford origins are clearly important to them and they come across with that heady mixture of Home Counties posh with a smidgeon of North London streetwise; the first comment from Emily after they came on stage was ‘Bugger me, it’s hot in here!’, but she said it ever so politely……

Hot, it certainly was, like a sauna, frankly – and packed as well.  As a former smoker I knew that there was an exit at the back of the room where folk could slip out for a crafty ciggy so I headed back there, reasoning there would be some kind of relieving smoky breeze wafting through from time to time.  Also, I knew that the room at the H&H is small enough that you get a good view and reasonable sound from pretty much everywhere.

And so it proved.  The Staves seemed genuinely puzzled by the fact that people actually shut up and listened to their songs, only making appreciative noises (with –  distressingly – some of that awful transatlantic whooping) between songs.  I guess it’s possible  that they have been playing some real toilets on this tour with audiences who just talk over the band.  Not in Kings Heath; people were there to hear the girls sing and how they obliged…

Staves on Stage

The Staves on stage

I think pretty much everything they did was from the marvellous new album and they seemed able to reproduce those fiendishly complex harmonies without any apparent stress – a wonder to behold.  You have the feeling that bigger challenges and more complex times lie ahead for these girls if they are to retain that sense of slightly faded innocence that characterises much of their output and also their approach to performance.  Catch ’em whilst they’re hot, but also before they lose the free-wheeling charm that makes them so special.


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