Released 23rd March
Is folky guitar music still relevant? It is an interesting question. Hip-hop, r’n’b, experimental music, electronic music, really all the other ‘musics’ mutate over the years (through experiment or necessity), into fresh forms of themselves that always seem current. The guitar and singer formula, on the other hand often seems tired, exhausted even. But every now and then an artist comes along who does something so authentic and beautiful with this simple formula that it makes you forget the question; The Stave sisters are three such artists.
Their beautiful second album, If I Was, is apparently the impromptu product of a visit to Wisconsin; to stay in the home/studio of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, whom they befriended while supporting on tour a few years back. If I Was is the natural progression of Dead and Born and Grown; time-matured to a richer and subtler sound which retains the same vocal dynamic between the band. The remote Wisconsin forest where they made the album may explain the interesting wintry sound of the album and the themes of isolation that feature.
The lack of second album weirdness is probably due to this spontaneous album conception. Sitting down with no planning, reportedly not even telling their label, cuts out the tense period of time pressured studio bickering, although as sisters, The Staves have probably already had a lifetime to bicker out creative differences anyway. If I Was is measured and carefully judged and no track seems rushed or slap dash.
The vast majority of the album is a hit, personal highlights are recent single ‘Blood I Bled’, ‘No me, No You, No More’ and closing tracks ‘Teeth White’ and ‘Sadness Don’t Own Me Anymore’ are interesting and memorable. Infact the only miss on the album is ‘Black and White’, a karaoke sounding number that jars with the rest of the album, but the less said about that the better and it is followed by the brilliant ‘Damn It All’, so easily forgotten.
I suppose the answer to the initial question is yes, if done well, or in the wiser words of Bert Lance, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”