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Anne Briggs iTunes Tracks Anne Briggs Website

Anne Briggs

Born Anne Patricia Briggs in Toton, Nottinghamshire on 29th September 1944, BRIGGS took up folk singing in her teens; she was raised by her aunt and uncle after her mother died of T.B., her disabled WWII veteran dad too ill to cope. BRIGGS’ first public performance came in 1962 when an initiative by the Workers Music Association saw a touring folk project reach Nottingham. Strongly attracted to the wandering minstrel life of an itinerant folk singer, BRIGGS followed the tour to its conclusion in London, where she shacked up with BERT JANSCH and wrote some of her earliest material. A subsequent debut EP, `The Hazards Of Love’ (1964), caught the attention of folklorist A.L. LLOYD with whom BRIGGS collaborated on a number of projects for Topic Records, including a guest spot on the LLOYD’s `The Bird In The Bush’ (1965).
The fact that her debut LP proper, ANNE BRIGGS {*7} didn’t appear until 1971 is testament to the singer’s ambivalence regarding the normal machinations of the music industry. The album itself was characterised by eight traditional cues (including `The Cuckoo’, `Blackwater Side’ and the 10-minute `Young Tambling’) plus two of her own compositions (`Go Your Way’ and `Living By The Water’; she plays bouzouki on the latter).
Preferring the rural backwaters of southern Ireland to the dark confines of the studio, BRIGGS performed both with Irish band SWEENEY’S MEN and as a solo artist, impromptu gigs in tiny pubs taking preference over organised events. By all accounts she was a magnetic singer despite stage nerves, the relative dearth of recorded material surely in inverse proportion to the influence she exerted on her contemporaries.
Signed to C.B.S. Records in the early 70s by PENTANGLE manager Jo Lustig, BRIGGS recorded THE TIME HAS COME (1971) {*8}, widely regarded as her most representative work. Accompanied only by guitar and bouzouki, BRIGGS cut thirteen tracks of contemporary, largely self-penned material drawn from various stages of her ten-year-old career. Apparently the first song she ever wrote, the title track (also recorded by BERT JANSCH and PENTANGLE amongst others) remains the record’s most evocative moment. Equal parts haunting, tender and desolate, BRIGGS’ voice remains among folk music’s richest of buried treasures, and coupled with her unconventional tuning (a trait she shared with another folk enigma, NICK DRAKE), tracks such as `Tangled Man’ and the traditional `Standing On The Shore’ (arranged by TERRY WOODS and Johnny Moynihan) sound quite unlike anything else recorded at the time (or since for that matter). Others such as STEVE ASHLEY’s `Fire And Wine’, Henry McCulloch’s `Step Right Up’, LAL WATERSON’s `Fine Horseman’ and her JANSCH collaboration `Wishing Well’, were equally impressive. Though the record received favourable reviews upon its release, BRIGGS remained a cult artist.
A further album recorded with ASHLEY and his Ragged Robin outfit in March 1973 remained unreleased for some time. Featuring BARRY DRANSFIELD on violin, the set was issued as SING A SONG FOR YOU (1997) {*6} on the Fledg’ling imprint. Alongside another spread of trad recordings (`Hills Of Greenmoor’, `The Bird In The Bush’, etc.), BRIGGS fulfilled her potential ability through her own material, `Travelling’s Easy’, `I Thought I Saw You Again’ and the title track.
Subsequently turning her attention to bringing up her daughter and withdrawing from the music industry completely, the singer seemed destined to become a long-forgotten footnote in the history of English folk. That is, until the publication of a fascinating article in Mojo magazine, some CD re-issues and an attendant resurgence of interest in BRIGGS’ work. Whether any of this will persuade her to resume her career (she now lives in relative isolation on a Scottish island) is another matter entirely.
© MC Strong 2010/BG/MCS-GFD / rev-up MCS Dec2013

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