Tag Archives: The Staves

the staves_final cover low

The Staves – Dead & Born & Grown (Atlantic)

Long overdue this one, should have been up weeks ago but I’ve had far too much fun listening to it…..

When I started this site up, one of the first new bands I featured was The Staves, going so far as to have them as one of my tips for 2012.  As Kryten from Red Dwarf would say “Engage smug mode”.  The Watford sisters have had a very busy year, and it doesn’t look like abating in 2013.  Following support slots with the likes of Michael Kiwanuka and a State-side jaunt with Ben Howard it was all go for a hectic festival season that saw 2 trips to Cornwall in the form of the Eden Sessions and Port Elliot.

The release of their début album ‘Dead & Born & Grown’ through the good people at Atlantic Records on the 5th of November is but the cherry on the top of a beautifully baked cake.

As with one of our previous artist reviews for Rachel Sermanni’s debut album ‘Under Mountains’ the main gripe I have with the album is it has borrowed really heavily from the band’s previous 3 EP releases and a live download offering.  So if like me you had all they had previously produced, what you are basically getting is 6 new songs and 6 old songs.  Due to the limited release of the ‘Facing West’ EP I’m sure they thought those songs should be available to everyone, and to be honest they’re too good to be missed off.  So moan over, onto the good stuff.

The album is a thoroughly sassy affair with beautiful harmonies flowing from every song, you will be truly dazzled with how sweet these girls sound.  The arrangements are for the most part as simple and stripped back as possible to let the voices take centre stage.  There are moments of pure delight that you can just let your mind swim away slowly down the melodic waterways that are wafting out of the speakers ‘Gone Tomorrow’ and ‘Facing West’ stand out in particular but by no means are the only highlights   There’s some bite to the girls too, the cleverly constructed ‘Pay Us No Mind’ is abound in vitriol but you’d be easily fooled by it’s beautiful delivery.  There are pure folky moments that will have traditionalists enthralled with lovely ditties like ‘In The Long Run’ and ‘Snow’.  The best is truly saved until last with the glorious ‘Eagle Song’ and like it’s avian namesake this song really soars among the clouds.

The girls have laid down a marker that is there for the rest of the women of British acoustica/folk to out-do.  I expect truly amazing things from this trio as the years go by, but for now we can all bask in the beauty of what they have created here.  Perfect listening as the nights draw in and the log fires can be gathered around….if you have one.  I’ll have to settle for leaning on my radiator with a nice cup of tea.

Rating: 9/10
For fans of: Rachel Sermanni, Lucy Rose, Laura Marling, Nickel Creek
Best Tracks: Eagle Song, Facing West, Wisely & Slow

Rachel Sermanni - Under Mountains album cover

Album Review: Rachel Sermanni – Under Mountains (Middle Of Nowhere)

We first covered Rachel Sermanni way back in February in the Fink gig review to which Rachel was support act, and again in March with the review of her second EP ‘Black Currents’.  It is with great delight we again get the chance to showcase a truly exceptional talent with the review of Rachel’s début album ‘Under Mountains’.

In case you aren’t familiar with Miss Sermanni here’s a bit of info so you feel more acquainted.  Rachel is a twenty year old folk musician from the Scottish Highlands.  She relocated to Glasgow to pursue her musical career.  This upheaval has helped fuse Rachel’s traditional highland folk upbringing with a plethora of other styles.  In a rare turn of events one of those styles happens to be a hint of jazz seeping through in both how Rachel sings, and some of the arrangements.  Her voice will at times remind you of Nerina Pallot, Norah Jones, Karine Polwart, but remains unique at all times.

The album kicks off on well trodden ground if you’ve been following Rachel’s career with ‘Breathe Easy’, which oozes sultry vocals and layers of acoustic guitar and violin.  It proceeds to pluck its way through the quirky ‘Bones‘ before a real gem in the exquisite ‘Waltz’.

Rachel’s simple vocals are just so lush with rich warm tones they will intoxicate you from the first listen of this long player.  The yummy ‘Ever Since the Chocolate’ is surely bound for a nice fat cheque off the back of an advert campaign some day soon.  Between the bewitching vocals and Rachel’s clever tales that she spins with her lyrics, you often find yourself floating off in a daydream while becoming totally entranced with this album.   ‘The Fog’ is one of those tracks that will stay with you all week, Rachel demonstrates she is no one trick pony showing a beautifully controlled power and huge range to her voice as well as the soft dreamy side.

A gorgeous little ditty follows in ‘Little Prayer’ ‘Sea Oh Sea’ is an amalgamation of deep vocals in the verse which are released and spiral in the chorus, totally mesmerizing.  ‘Sleep’ is altogether more delicate, as the title suggests it’s almost a lullaby.  Best song title on the album has to go to ‘Marshmallow Unicorn’ which keeps with the softly played numbers in this part of the album.  Another totally entrancing song follows in the title track of Rachel’s debut EP ‘Black Current’, it wickedly plays with melody and flows beautifully from one part to another.  Finishing the album strongly with her most recent release ‘Eggshells’ and the reworked ‘To A Fox’ as a listener you are left somewhat punch drunk.

Having taken this glorious album in a number of times I couldn’t recommend it enough.  The only real criticism of it is how heavily reliant of previous releases it is for material, but if you’re listening to Rachel for the fist time this will mean little to you, and is really just being far to picky.

Links for pre-ordering various formats will be at the bottom.  If you know how to use Youtube, you can probably preview many more tracks that we have here.  I implore you to buy ‘Under Mountains


Oh and Rachel if you ever read this……a collaboration with Roddy Woomble would be stunning….sort it out eh?

Rating: 10/10
Best Tracks: All of the are superb, if I had to choose I’d go for Waltz, The Fog, Ever Since The Chocolate
For fans of: Karine Polwart, Nerina Pallot, The Staves

1. Breathe Easy
2. Bones
3. Waltz
4. Ever Since The Chocolate
5. The Fog
6. Little Prayer
7. Sea Oh Sea
8. Sleep
9. Marshmallow Unicorn
10. Black Current
11. Eggshells
12. To A Fox

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/RachelSermanni
Pre-order the album here: http://rachelsermanni.tmstor.es/
Itunes: http://itunes.apple.com/gb/preorder/under-mountains/id551435871

Frank Turner - Eden Sessions 32

Live Review: The Eden Sessions – Folk Day: Frank Turner, Stornoway, Bellowhead, Seth Lakeman, Mull Historical Society and The Staves

An absolutely blinding line up awaited patrons of the third Eden Session of 2012.  The much heralded Folk Session was one that stood out from the first announcement, and the quality of acts that have been announced since have just added to that.  It was the first chance to see the much talked about vocal trio The Staves, a band we’ve been banging on about since the inception of Clean Slate Music.  The only disappointment of the day aside from the weather came early on as due to coming on a bit later than billed we missed Dodgy on the Biotik stage, as it would have conflicted with proceedings in the main arena.

The sun was shining as The Staves opened up the main stage.   The three sisters from Watford looking completely at ease on stage as they began to weave their spell on those who had made it down early to take full advantage of their ticket.  For the most part the girls relied solely on their voices and a simple acoustic guitar played by Jessica, with Camilla pitching in on the ukulele.  Their voices are so incredible that the crowd were all attentive, a rare feat for the first band on the bill.  The set was made up in large parts from their three EP releases and it was a delight to hear ‘The Motherlode’, ‘Mexico’, ‘Facing West’ and a wonderful rendition of ‘Wisely and Slow’.  It was the new songs that made me sit up the most as ‘Tongue Behind My Teeth’ exposed a new dynamic in the girls vocals, the trademark harmonies were present throughout but there was a more cutting edge with traces of vitriol to the solo parts.  Finishing a wonderful set on another newbie ‘Winter Trees’ The Staves departed to a warm round of applause.

Until they were announced as part of the days festivities, I hadn’t heard the name Mull Historical Society for nearly a decade.  Colin Macintyre and company rattled through a lively set full of upbeat folk-pop numbers and friendly banter.  Macintyre’s vocals at times seemed a bit stretched and wavering, but the crowd now well into getting suitably inebriated of a Sunday afternoon didn’t seem to notice and the band were sent on their way with a very appreciative round of applause.  Highlights of the set included the timeless ‘Watching Xanadu’ and ‘The Final Arreas’.

In my humble opinion Seth Lakeman was on way too early and should have quite comfortably enjoyed second billing on the day.  Like the trooper he is Seth rolled up 3rd with his regular cohorts storming through a mostly high-octane folkacoaster (get it!) with hits from his ever-growing back catalogue.  A nice treat for long-term fans was the return to the fold of Bellowhead axeman Benji Kirkpatrick for a quick song.  The only time the pace dropped was for the new material off ‘Tales From The Barrelhouse’ ‘More Than Money’ and ‘The Blacksmith’s Prayer’.  Aside from that the set read as a dream for Lakeman fans including favourites like ‘Kitty ‘Race To Be King’, ‘The Hurlers’, ‘Lady Of The Sea’ and a cracking solo performance of  ‘Kitty Jay’.  Like last year when Seth performed on the Biotik stage during the Primal Scream gig, it looks like he might just have stolen the show again.

Bellowhead were set with the hardest task of all in following Lakeman, John Spiers and his merry band of Folkateers set about facing that challenge head on.  There’s a lot of them in Bellowhead, it’s incredible to see them perform, not only are they amazingly tight, but they are great to watch.  There’s always something going on on-stage, be it fake fights in the string section or a bit of nicely coordinated ‘River Dancing’.  This all helped to keep the pace lively and the audience interacting.  I’m not overly familiar with Bellowhead material, but fan favourite ‘New York Girls’ was sung back to the by the majority of the crowd.

It may have been because they were on after two incredibly lively acts, but I found Stornoway a little underwhelming.  They’ve always been one of those bands that whenever I’ve heard them on the wireless I’ve really enjoyed what they do, but it’s never been enough to pick up their album.  In doing a bit of listening prior to the gig I thought to myself then that they’d have been better off following The Staves rather than Bellowhead, and this was realised as aside from their obvious fans, there seemed to be a lot of people making bar trips and toilet breaks in their set.  As nothing much was happening on stage and you could hear them no matter where you were this seemed like a decent idea.  It’s not that they weren’t good, but I don’t think people were ready for the comedown in pace, and then to be ramped back up for tonight’s head-liner.  Their biggest hit ‘Zorbing’ still went down an absolute treat.  The rain also began to teem down when they took the stage.  This ruffled a few feathers and hampered those who had obviously come to relax on the banking and enjoy the music.

What happened between Stornoway finished and Frank Turner started was unexpected, and it may have been because the rain was now settled in for the duration, but it seemed as if the arena emptied almost by half.  This might have been because people were bunching together a bit more or some heading off early as it was a Sunday, but I’ve never seen any crowd leave before the headline act before.

Hats off to Mr Frank Turner, he could be seen side stage for every act, watching intently.  Some head-liners would swan in at the last possible moment, so as the Americans say mad props to you sir!

Frank Turner’s not your archetypal head-line act.  He’s more an anti-star than anything, building his fanbase rather strangely on hard work and more importantly his music.  He hasn’t enjoyed massive chart success, you won’t often find him on the main stage at the big festivals, but almost every person left at Eden sang back to him as if he were one of our own.  His acoustic folk bordering on Pogues style just not as Irish is full of patriotism, tales of yesteryear and passion.  The perfect recipe for a Folk day if ever I saw one.  Frank’s surprisingly chatty on stage and quick to thank all of the acts that have gone before him.  Singing tunes from his most recent album ‘England Keep My Bones’ as well as his back catalogue stand out efforts included ‘I Still Believe’ a haunting solo a cappella version of ‘English Curse’, ‘love, Ire and Song’ and closing his set on a raucous rendition ‘Reasons Not To Be An Idiot’.  Turner left all he had on that stage, as I’m sure he does every night.  Roll on November when he returns to play Hall For Cornwall in Truro.


News: Beth Orton and The Staves set for Port Elliot Festival

Huge annoucement today that Beth Orton will play her only festival date this year when she plays the Caught by the River stage at the Port Elliot Festival next month.  Also on the bill are Clean Slate favourites The Staves, the Watford ladies will surely entrance the festival lovelies of St Germans.  Buy tickets by following the link here:  www.porteliotfestival.com

Here’s a few selected tunes by both to pass a few minutes.

Beth Orton

The Staves

The most recently announced performers aren’t yet showing on the line up but here’s the published day by day list so far:


Fringe on Top with Jo & Danny
The See See
By the Sea
Andrews of Arcadia
Mr Natty
Gareth Jones


Dominic West
Ali Smith & Jackie Kay
Alex Bellos & Gavin Pretor-Pinney’s Spelling Bee
5 x 15
Will Hodgkinson
Matthew de Abaitua
Jamie Brisick
Alex Fury
Susie Parr
Luke Wright
Paul Kelly and Lawrence from Felt
Simon Garfield
Emily Rhodes’ Walking Book Club

Music and Cabaret
The Bees
Cate Le Bon
BBC Introducing
H Hawkline
Stealing Sheep
Bristol Hi Fi Soundsystem
Gaz Mayall
The Memory Band
Geoff Travis
Mik Artistik
The Schizodelic Sound
Late of the Pier (DJ set)
The Half Sisters
Maniere des Bohemiens
Flats and Sharps
2 Tonic
Gareth Jones

Caught By The River
Beer by the River event
Roy Wilkinson
Andrews of Arcadia
John Andrews
Luke Jennings
Roger Wyndham-Barnes
(plus Music events listed above)

Daniel de la Falaise
Rose Prince
Giaconda Scott

Idler Academy
Andy Kershaw
Gavin Pretor-Pinney
Mark Vernon
Hugh Warwick
Matthew Green
Tom Conran

Camper Obscura
Chris Lewis – chi-walking guided walk


Dominic West
Jessica Hynes
Rosie Boycott
Tracy Chevalier
Why Willows Weep
John Cooper Clarke
Tishani Doshi
Nikita Lalwani
Kamila Shamsie
Ned Beauman
Susie Parr
Jon Ronson
Hannah Rothschild
Marcel Theroux’s Literary Pub Quiz
Murray Lachlan Young
Simon Munnery
Gavin Pretor-Pinney
Matthew Hollis
Emily Rhodes’ Walking Book Club

Music & Cabaret
Andrew Weatherall
Tim Burgess (DJ set)
Sean Rowley’s Guilty Pleasures
Jon Hicks
Mik Artistik
Laetitia Sadier
Ry Spencely
Wildcat Will
Maniere des Bohemiens
Vocal Harem

Caught By The River
Tim Burgess
Chris Watson and Robert Mcfarlane
Richard King and Emma Warren
Laura Beatty
Andrews of Arcadia
Will Burns
(plus Music events listed above)

Peter Gordon
Angela Hartnett
Richard Bertinet
Sarah Husband and Andrew Webb
William Sitwell and Allegra McEvedy
Sam McKnight and Camilla Morton
Russell Norman

Flower Show
Sean Borodale
Jon Drori
Anna Pavord
Tim Smit
Jeremy Deller

Idler Academy
Mark Vernon
Lucy Cooke
Boff Whalley
Rachel Johnson
Dan Kieran
Jay Griffiths
Princes in the Tower
Frisbee Tree Golf

The Odditorium
Paul Simonon exhibition
Ed Cooke’s mnemonics walk
William Fiennes’ tree walk
Duncan Minshull’s literary walk
Print Club London
Wild Swim
Camper Obscura
Brand X
Mobile Tea Dance


Robert Macfarlane
Miles Jupp
Kate Summerscale
Rebecca Pike
Murray Lachlan Young
Sam Leith
William Dalrymple
Geoff Dyer
Richard Milward
Nikita Lalwani
Kamila Shamsie
Tishani Doshi
Mick Brown
John Andrews
Stephen Frears
Ben Masters
Tony White
Nick Rosen
The Gentle Author

Music & Cabaret
Jeb Loy Nichols
Urban Voodoo Machine
Bayou Brothers (feat. Lazy Lester)
Jonny Trunk
Hip Hop Karaoke
John Hegley
Gary Knights
Robert Ellis
Jonah’s Lift
Matt Harvey
Hat Fitz & Cara

Caught By The River
Chris Watson’s nature disco
Cheryl Tipp
Chris Yates and Dan Kieran
Andrews of Arcadia
Tom O’Reilly
John Berry
(plus Music acts listed above)

Stefan Gates
Nathan Outlaw
Tom Parker-Bowles
Sam McKnight
Camilla Morton
Chris Sherville

Flower Show
Val Bourne
St Austell Town Band

Idler Academy
John Cooper Clarke
NJ Stevenson
Alexander Masters
Theo Simon
Susanna Hislop
Frisbee Tree Golf

The Odditorium
Paul Simonon exhibition
Print Club London
Wild Swim
Camper Obscura
John Wright’s foraging walk
William Fiennes’ tree walk
Duncan Minshull’s literary walk
Erica James’ festival treasure hunt
Mobile Tea Dance