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Album Review

A legend of the British folk revival, singer Anne Briggs performed an exquisite a cappella — one of the most haunting and distinct voices of the movement. Her influence is far-reaching, and echoes of Briggs can be heard in the work of her key contemporaries, including Burt Jansch, Shirley Collins, Laura Nyro, and many later artists who cited her as an influence. From Kate Bush to the Cocteau Twins and Sinead O'Connor, this strain of folk singing that was entirely Briggs can be heard, yet she was under-acknowledged in her prime of the early '60s outside of serious folk circles. This collection on Topic compiles all of the a cappella recordings from this period, and four songs with minimal guitar, dulcimer, and bozuki accompaniment. Animating Scottish, Irish, and English traditional forms, some of these melodies will be familiar to fans of the Pentangle who recorded some of the same tunes, including "Willie O' Winsbury" on their early albums. Also, fans of Jansch — who performed and recorded "Go Your Way My Love," one of Briggs' few originals — will know the legendary guitarist's version. Often performing together, arguably the duo shared the deepest insight, not to mention passion for the Anglo-folk song. This music is simple and sublime and showcases a beautiful storytelling song style with a voice that benefits from being heard unadorned, and being treated with due respect in the remastering. Though standouts are "Blackwater Side," with its minimal acoustic guitar backdrop, and "Willie O'Winsbury," an ancient folk song where Briggs shares its melody with a hammered dulcimer to stunning effect. A highly recommended overview of a singer who sits high in the academy of U.K. folk.


Born: 29 September 1944 in Toton, Nottinghamshire, England

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '60s, '70s

In the annals of pop and folk music, there are few sagas stranger than that of Anne Briggs. An awesomely talented singer of traditional English folk music, possessing of as pure and breathtakingly beautiful a voice as one could hope to have, she was the single most important influence on a group of female British folksingers that includes Sandy Denny, Maddy Prior, June Tabor, and Linda Thompson. Even Norma Waterson, herself a hugely important figure in the British folk revival of the mid-'60s, admits...
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