Anne Briggs is an English folk musician who was mostly active from 1963 to 1973, though she was also briefly active in 1990 and 1993, at least according to her Wikipedia page. Briggs has been cited as an influential figure for the British folk revival movement, inspiring musicians like Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson, Bert Jansch, and Jimmy Page, just to name a few. Briggs has also been cited as an influence of The Decemberists, who released an album called The Hazards of Love (2009), which shares a name with Briggs’ debut EP. It seems that Briggs retired from the studio in 1973 after finishing her final album and moving to Scotland with her family, and it seems she’s only performed in concert on a few occasions since then. This album, Anne Briggs (1971), is Briggs’ first full-length studio album, and is comprised of mostly traditional folk songs and a couple of originals by Briggs. I’m pretty stoked to give this album a listen, so with that said, I’m going to jump on into the music.
“Blackwater Side” begins with some really pleasant, mellow, folksy acoustic guitar. Holy smokes, Briggs’ vocals come in and I’m immediately enchanted. Her vocals have such a gentle feel, and the notes she hits have such an immense sweetness as her vocals almost have a sort of flute-meets-bagpipes quality that I’m absolutely digging. I’m kind of reminded of both Carolyn Hester and Joni Mitchell with Briggs’ vocals. Wow, great track, and I’m really excited to hear more.
“The Snow It Melts the Soonest” begins with just Briggs’ vocals a-cappella as she sings what sounds to be a traditional western European folk tune. It’s almost as though she’s looking over the cobblestone roads in her old English seaside town at some time in the 1800s, almost causing the world to freeze around her as she continues to sing. Wow, great track.
“Willie O Winsbury” starts out with some pleasant, folksy acoustic guitar. Oh wow, it sounds like there are two different folksy acoustic stringed instruments shortly after her vocals come into the song, which seem to give the soundscape a sort of epic folktale sound that’s main driving force is the sweet, folksy vocal melodies sung by Briggs. On Apple Music, this song is also credited to Johnny Moynihan, who I think is the guitarist/strings player in the track. Oh wow, the strings seem to continually catch my ear and pull me closer to my speakers, while Briggs’ sweet vocals continually enchant me more as I continue to listen. I’m really digging this song, which seems to continual traveling on in a really nice, folksy manner. Great track.
“Go Your Way” begins with some really sweet, somewhat bass-ier acoustic guitar, which have a sort of pleasant, flowing, folksy sound that I really dig. This track is one of the two originals by Briggs on this album. I really dig the nearly somber folksy sound of Briggs’ vocals in this track. Super sweet track.
“Thorneymoor Woods” begins with just Briggs’ lone vocals, which are singing a really pleasant, almost whimsical, traditional western European folk melody. It’s almost seems like the kind of song that kids growing up in the English countryside would sing with one another to pass time during the day. Super sweet track.
“The Cuckoo” begins again with Briggs’ lone vocals, which continue in an almost enchanting manner that I’m really digging. I can’t help but think of Janis Joplin and Big Brother & The Holding Company’s song, “Coo Coo”, which seems to possibly be based off of this traditional folk tune, as a lot of the lyrics seem quite similar from what I can recollect. Great tune.
“Reynardine” continues again with Briggs’ lone vocals, which continue meandering about in a sort of enchanting and folksy manner. It almost seems as though Briggs time traveled back to the early 1800s and recorded this from inside an old house in the English countryside while looking out a window and watching raindrops gently fall onto the glass. I really dig the traditional western European folk melodies that Briggs is singing. Great tune.
“Young Tambling” continues with Briggs’ a-cappella vocals, which seem to be singing more of a folk story at this point that has me paying close attention and listening closer and closer. The vocal melody also reminds me more of the Scottish and possibly even Irish folk songs that I’ve listened to. It seems that this song is traditionally called something like “Tam Lin”, and originates from Scotland. According to the Wikipedia page for the song, it is a ballad that dates back as far as 1549. I’m really digging this track so far. Briggs sings with such a pleasant, traditional folksy sound that I feel as though I’m currently listening to her during some performance in the early 1700s somewhere along the border between England and Scotland. The track is nearly 11 minutes in duration, and it’s almost completed playing at this point, but I think I could honestly listen to this for hours. Wow, great track.
Oh wow, “Living By the Water” begins with a really sweet folksy stringed instrument that doesn’t quite sound like a guitar, which seemingly transports you back to reality after the 4-song movement of just Briggs sweet vocals. The track almost reminds me of a more western European folk-oriented song from The Incredible String Band, as there’s a sort of pleasant droning in the background while the stringed instrument almost reminds me a bit of a sitar, though I don’t think it is one. After looking it up, it seems the instrument I’m hearing is a bouzouki, which is a lute-related instrument originating from Greece. I really dig the western European folksy vocal melody from Briggs in this tune as well. Great track.
“Maa Bonny Lad” begins with Briggs’ sweet, lone vocals again, which sing a really pleasant folksy melody that sounds like it possibly originates from somewhere along the border between England and Scotland. Wow, super sweet tune, and a great way to end the album.
Holy smokes, this album is great. I can definitely understand and hear how Briggs might have been an influence during the British folk revival era. The mixture of songs with mellow, stringed, acoustic folk instrumentation and a-cappella songs had a really enchanting feel. It was almost as if Briggs was somehow able to transport me back in time to the 1700s and 1800s to hear traditional British and Scottish folk tunes as if I had lived there myself. If you’re into traditional western European folk music, especially that of British or Scottish origin, then you might want to consider checking out this album. If you do decide to give this album a listen, then I sincerely do hope that you enjoy the listening experience at least as much as I did.