Elton Drake with Fotheringay

Reading Mick Houghton’s Sandy Denny book reminded me of this;

In 1970, Elton John and Linda Peters (who would become Linda Thompson) made an album of demos of songs by writers signed to Warlock Music, the publishing arm of Joe Boyd’s Witchseason label. There were songs by John Martyn, Beverley Martyn, Mike Heron and four by Nick Drake, the idea being that the songs might be covered by other artists if heard in a more pop-oriented vein. The Sandy Denny connection is that the band on the demos was Fotheringay’s Jerry Donahue, Jerry Conway and bass-player Pat Donaldson (who is still making great records like the first Staves album…) The three recently toured in support of the Fotheringay Nothing More collection.
Here’s one of the four videos from that box set.

Gigs · Music

The Staves – Queen’s Hall 7th February


staves scotland jura
From The Staves Facebook page – “We got whisky…”

On Saturday 7th February The Staves returned to The Queen’s Hall, promoting their new album “If I Was,” out on 23rd March – which seems a bit daft, but it was meant to have been out before the tour, last week in fact. Atlantic Records delayed the release in what seems a truly anachronistic move; really, nowadays, who cares about chart positions or avoiding the competition? Are The Staves really needing to avoid a clash with Ed Sheeran or the next Taylor Swift single? If they’d had the album at the show on Saturday, they would have sold buckets, but when you get to a certain level in that game, that’s way too simple. Or maybe Warners are seeing The Staves as the new Corrs (and, to be fair, they cleaned up with The Corrs…)
Yada yada, what do I know..?
Anyway, the last time I saw The Staves was October 2013 and in the interim they’ve made the afore-mentioned album, toured a lot and released the “Blood I Bled” EP.

staves blood bled

“Blood I Bled” came out at the end of last year, has three tracks (only one of which is on the new album) and is wildly impressive.
I approached with care; having quickly learned to love the “Dead & Born & Grown” album, I was a wee bit scared that the greatness of The Staves had been bolstered by the production and mixing skills of Ethan Johns and his dad, who had worked together on most of the album.
It’s OK, nothing to worry about. All three tracks on “Blood I Bled” were produced by The Staves and are great. The track from the forthcoming album was recorded with Justin Vernon, who has worked with Bon Iver, which is supposed to be a good thing…best of the three is the only one they didn’t play on Saturday, “America,” where they seem to get Joseph Heller and George Thorogood name-checked in the same lyric.

Anyway, the show on Saturday was even better than the last one in 2013. A lot better attended. The act has tightened up a lot, Emmylou Stave has become Cruella de Stave and they’re still super-posh. Love ’em.


staves live edinburgh

Gigs · Music

Ethan Johns in Edinburgh


Ethan Johns in Edinburgh

Ethan Johns, producer of Laura Marling and co-producer of The Staves played in Edinburgh tonight. Great set, some great sounding songs from his new album The Reckoning, including a song called “The Roses and the Dead.” Maybe I wasn’t the only fan of The Dead in the room tonight…

Producer Ethan Johns with Stuart Ferguson

The man’s uncle produced Marquee Moon…this case is closed.

Gigs · Music

The Staves in Edinburgh…

The Staves Edinburgh - I wander I roam

The Staves are coming to The Queens’s Hall on Wednesday, toward the end of another lengthy tour for them.

I’m quite intrigued by the prospect, having spent a lot of my listening time over the last couple of months with their Dead & Born & Grown album, the original cover of which is shown below.  It reminds me of The Millenium’s Begin sleeve, but I love the font and I’ve enjoyed albums for worse reasons than the font on the sleeve…




staves millenium begin

But seriously, I’m pretty excited by this.  I was first attracted to The Staves because of Ethan Johns’ involvement with this album – Johns, of course is Laura Marling’s producer and co-toiler in the garden of greatness (she would be as great without him, but it might not be as obvious,) and has also got a pretty good solo album, If Not Now Then When?

Ethan is the son of Glyn and the nephew of the late Andy (who produced Marquee Moon!) and he and his dad had allegedly (according to Atlantic records’ website) both shown an interest in The Staves; so, happily, they share most (although not all) of the mixing and production credits on D&B&G.  Ethan plays a few instruments too and contributes the great “live” vibe that he adds to Marling’s records – fingers whistling on guitar strings, stuff falling over…

So, with that pedigree of producer and given that posh birds with acoustic guitars seems to be where I’m at a lot of the time now, I got the “Special Edition” of D&B&G (we fall for it every time) which includes a live five track CD, which adds nothing, apart from maybe allowing a picture to be added to the front of the CD showing Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor (probably not from the rough end of Watford) in full on CSN supplication. That’s it below…


staves edinburgh live



CSN Carry On Crosby Stills Nash

Now, obviously, there’s only one CSN, but delightfully, there’s only one The Staves.  Maybe it’s the sibling thing, but the vocal blend they have is unique and striking, as on this YouTube clip below – I’ve been struggling to think what sort of post-production could have been going on to beef up the voices on this, but I ultimately don’t doubt that what we hear in this room is how they sound.  Anyway, I’ll find out in a couple of days.

As for the D&B&G album, I wouldn’t be without it now.  It took a couple of listens, but now I’m a big fan.  It reminds me more of the first America album than CSN, but that’s not a bad thing.  Some parts are better than others, but I love “The Motherlode” and especially “Snow.”  This is partly due to the presence (and appropriate silences) on bass of Pat Donaldson.  He played on the canonical Richard and Linda Thompson records, with the McGarrigles and was also the only member of Fotheringay never to have been in Fairport Convention, which is surely the answer to a pub quiz question in some awful circle of hell.  Also, apparently, a neighbour of Glyn Johns now.  And originally from Edinburgh.

Pat Donaldson really does take The Staves to another place.

Anyway, out of all that, I’ve convinced myself that The Staves at The Queen’s Hall will be the best thing ever…


Staves in car