Posts Tagged ‘Blood I Bled’

It’s early morn on Thanksgiving Day as I write and, all through the house, not a creature is stirring – aside from the feline who’s stalked me since his breakfast at dawn. Just now, he poked his head up beside me and bellowed a mew. It’s his version of “please, sir, may I have some more?” but instead of “sir” it’s “serf,” and he’s added and subtracted a few other words, too. “Serf, I want seconds. Now!”

I jest, of course.

Thanksgiving is, as its name makes clear, a time for giving thanks, and there’s much to be thankful for this year, as there is every year, even though – as a whole – 2017 will go down in the history books as one of the all-time worst. It sometimes feels as if horrors from a parallel universe are bleeding into ours.

But here’s one reason (of many) to give thanks: Tomorrow, sisters Jessica, Camilla and Emily Staveley-Taylor, aka the Staves, release a new album, a collaboration with the chamber sextet yMusic titled The Way Is Read. The three tracks they’ve released to promote the project are breathtaking. “Silent Side,” which they shared last week, is aural beauty personified:

Their show at the World Cafe Live in March, I should mention, was a highlight not just of this year’s concert slate, but of all my years’ concerts. It was akin to stepping through a portal to a magical, mystical land where everything’s groovy and everything’s alright. In other words, it’s in the running for the Old Grey Cat’s esteemed Concert of the Year Honors.

One of the things I like about them, aside from their songs and vocals, is their knowledge of music past, which they obviously use to inform their music present. One can hear it in the borrowed tunes they sometimes sing – as I’ve written before, a well-chosen cover song is like a glimpse into the soul of the singer(s); and the sisters’ picks, which range from the sublime to silly, are illuminating.

Here’s today’s Top 5: The Staves – Borrowed Tunes.

1) “After the Gold Rush” (Neil Young)

2) “These Days” (Jackson Browne)

3) “A Case of You” (Joni Mitchell)

4) “I’m on Fire” (Bruce Springsteen)

5) “Long Time Gone” (Dixie Chicks)

And two bonuses…

6) “Helplessly Hoping” (Crosby, Stills & Nash)

7) “Afternoon Delight” (Starland Vocal Band)

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: