English folk trio The Staves unveiled their delicate harmonies and dry British wit to a full house at Café 939 on Boylston Street last Monday night. The three sisters – Emily, decease Jessica and Milly Stavely-Taylor – hail from Watford, find England and have garnered quite a bit of buzz opening for The Civil Wars and Bon Iver on separate U.S. tours last year, and releasing their first album, Dead & Born & Grown, last November.
They’re currently in the midst of their first headlining tour in the States. “There’s a little bit of the fear factor,” Emily noted from the stage. “We never know if we’re going to be playing to an audience of one person.” No such worries in Boston, where the intimate Red Room at Café 939 was filled to capacity. “We’re so honored you spent your hard-earned cash to come see three bitches fuck around on stage.”
The Staves have been compared to classic harmony-laden groups like Simon & Garfunkel and Crosby Stills Nash & Young, and also bear more than a passing resemblance to Fleet Foxes. They played a 13-song set that lasted just over an hour, with the full house cheering wildly at the conclusion of each song, but becoming pin-drop quiet while the sisters were singing.
They introduced one song, “Facing West,” by saying “it’s about somebody we really hate.” I’ll say this: I wish somebody hated me enough to write a song that beautiful about me. Other highlights included “Mexico,” “Winter Trees” and a new, untitled song they played mid-set, which featured youngest Milly on ukulele and lead vocals.
They saved “Dead & Born & Grown,” the title track of their album, for an encore, noting that it used only the bottom two strings on the guitar, because when their father had first taught them to play guitar, he’d done so using only the bottom two strings.
The Staves were preceded on stage by Escondido, out of Nashville. “We like country music, but cool country music,” guitarist Tyler James declared. And he don’t lie. He and musical partner Jessica Maros look the part of country crooners – clad in tight white outfits with a dose of fringe and an oversized cowboy hat thrown in for good measure – but their music tends to lean more toward the country-rock end of that spectrum.
Choice songs included “Cold October” and “Bad Without You,” both of which are on Ghosts of Escondido, an album they recorded in a single day and self-released in February of this year. They’re worth checking out.