Category Archives: The Staves

The Staves @ World Cafe Live, 3/9/2017

I think that maybe I was dreaming. I smelled cinnamon and spices. I heard music everywhere. All around was a kaleidoscope of color. I stood beside Diane at the edge of the stage in the sold-out downstairs room at the World Cafe Live in West Philadelphia, the two of us somewhat out of place amongst the 20-somethings milling about, awaiting the arrival of the Staves.

For those unfamiliar with sisters Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staverly-Taylor, whose ages range from the early 30s to mid-20s: They hail from Eau Claire, Wis., by way of Watford, Hertfordshire, England, which I gather is a suburban London enclave, and were raised on the hippie songs and harmonies of the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel and CSNY, among others. In fact, the first song they ever properly worked out harmonies for was “Helplessly Hoping.”

The pre-show music was a blast, and included the Beatles, Waterboys and, as the sisters and drummer Dave Power filed onto the stage, Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer.” Everyone in the audience sang along to that classic track – a foreshadow of a surreal moment yet to come.

The Staves opened with the mesmerizing “Blood I Bled” from their acclaimed 2015 album If I Was.  

Another highlight: “Steady.”

The piece d’resistance, at least for me, came midway through the 75-minute set: the wondrous “Make It Holy,” which features a strong CSN vibe.

There was also some diversions: Everyone sang happy birthday to Dave Power – whose martial beats, I gotta say, boomed throughout the night.

And, in the surreal moment I mentioned above, Emily, Jessica and Camilla were joined by many in the audience when, in an off-the-cuff moment, they sang the theme to Fresh Prince of Bel-Air! (A truly scary moment, that.) Here’s a brief clip:

The set also featured their new single, “Tired as Fuck”…

… and ended with “Teeth White.”

In the last call from lands I’ve never been too, they closed the night with the CSN-flavored “Mexico.”

So, anyway, I thought that maybe I was dreaming. I smelled cinnamon and spice. I heard music everywhere. All around was a kaleidoscope of color. It was a great concert, in other words, akin to walking through a Renaissance Fair on a late-spring day, only better. Much better. All one really need know is this: on the ride home, Diane said “They may have been your artists before, but they’re our artists now!”

About the only complaint that I can come up with: the length of the show. But, in fairness, I’d likely have left thinking the same even if they’d played twice as long.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the opening act Mikaela Davis, who’s a harp-playing wonder with a luscious voice. When I first saw the harp on stage, I braced for a set of elevator music. Far from it. She was, in a word, hypnotic. Here she is from last week in Dallas:

Today’s Top 5: That Was Then, This Is Now

Yeah, yeah, yeah: I borrowed the title from S.E. Hinton, whose 1971 novel charts the different life paths that two close friends choose to take. Or did I borrow it from the Monkees, who had a Top 20 hit with a song of the same name in 1986?

You be the judge.

After this weekend’s prior Top 5s (March 1983 and January 1994), I think it only appropriate to feature some new music – what I’ve been grooving to for the past week, basically.

 1) Courtney Marie Andrews – “Put the Fire Out.” As I wrote last week, Courtney’s album Honest Life is simply stunning – everything good about music can be found in its grooves (or bytes). Earlier this week, she released a video for “Put the Fire Out”…

2) Lucy Rose – “Floral Dresses.” The British singer-songwriter released this gem of a song, which features the Staves on harmonies, just a few days back.

3) The Staves – “Tired as Fuck.” And speaking of the Staves, who we’re slated to see this Thursday, there’s this single, released on Feb. 10th. It goes to show that even a profanity can be made to sound heavenly….

4) The Staves – “America.” And here the Staves are again, in a video released just two days back, singing this wondrous song (from their 2015 Blood I Bled EP) in a recent soundcheck.

5) Savannah Phylaw – “Love Remains.” The San Diego-based singer-songwriter, who I discovered via Twitter, released this song at the end of last year.

Today’s Top 5: Classics, Old & New

Humans have lived, longed, loved, lost and loved again, forged wars and fought peace, and argued about politics familial, social and cultural, since the dawn of time. Such is the grist of poetry and song, of course, and while many lyrical laments litter the byways of history, forgotten, much has stuck around – thanks to the advent of, first, paper; second, recordings; and, last, the resonance of the works themselves. Whether they come from the pen of Wallace Stevens or piano of Carole King, or the hills of Appalachia, expressions of the heart, soul and psyche have remained constant through the ages. It’s why music, like all art, doesn’t come with an expiration date. We, as a people, live, long, love, lose and love again, and argue amongst ourselves, forever and ever. Amen.

I mentioned in my last post that I sent my niece CDs for her 21st birthday. (A few more than I intended, actually, but the prices on two were obscenely low.) Three harken back to the 1970s and the others hail from the past few years. The lines that lead from those of yore to the present are right there, to be heard.

One thing that I did, and I have no idea if it worked as intended, was to turn Amazon’s free gift cards into short notes about each album. So, for today’s Top 5: Classics, Old & New, here are the picks with my notes (and a bit extra) included.

1) Carole King – “So Far Away” from Tapestry, 1971. King, of course, is one of the all-time greats; and this album is, too. I wrote in the note, “Blue, Rickie Lee’s debut and Tapestry are stone-cold classics that have influenced many, including Diane Birch, FAK & the Staves.“ In retrospect, I should have singled out Tapestry specifically, as it was the top-selling album for 15 weeks in a row during the winter and spring of ’71. Rolling Stone rates it the No. 35 Album of All Time.

2) Joni Mitchell – “River” from Blue, 1971. I wrote: “This is rightfully considered one of the greatest singer-songwriter albums of all time, and has influenced generations of artists. ‘River’ is amazing.” Rolling Stone rates it the No. 30 Album of All Time.

3) Rickie Lee Jones – “Chuck E.’s in Love” from Rickie Lee Jones, 1979. I wrote: “Rickie Lee’s debut was and remains a stunner, building upon the blueprints laid down by Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro and Patti Smith, among others.” I’d add: Rickie Lee radiates utter coolness on everything she does, which is why she’s the Duchess of Coolsville. (Her most recent album was one of my favorites from last year, too, for what that’s worth.)

4) Diane Birch – “Nothing but a Miracle” from Bible Belt, 2009. I wrote, borrowing an observation from my Diane: “This album, in many ways, is a modern-day Tapestry.” That’s a tad over-the-top, granted, but there’s no denying the charm of this modern-day wonder. I remember reading the review of it in Rolling Stone a month or so before its street date; it sounded like something I’d like, so I looked her up on Facebook, where she’d posted four of the songs from the album. Within a few minutes, Diane called in: “Who is that? I really like her!” We’ve been fans ever since.

5) First Aid Kit – “Cedar Lane” from Stay Gold, 2014. I wrote: “This was my favorite album of 2014 – FAK are two sisters from Sweden who mine an Americana sound.” Notes, of course, can’t include hyperlinks, so I’ll include one here instead: my Albums of the Year, 2014 post.

6) The Staves – “Make It Holy” from If I Was. 2015. I wrote: “This album is a gem – my favorite from last year.” (Here’s that post.)