It is very well-documented and easily understood that Anne Briggs’ relatively brief recording career has had a continuing influence on succeeding generations of folk singers and the wider musical world. Christy Moore, June Tabor, Eliza Carthy and Kate Rusby have all spoken of her influence on their own singing. As recently as 2009 The Decemberists based their The Hazards Of Love song cycle was on the Anne Briggs collection of the same name.
In the summer of 1966 Peter Kennedy recorded a series of 45 minute radio programmes for the BBC. Folk-Song Cellar was presented as ‘an informal get-together’ in a fictional ‘folk club’ hosted by Robin Hall and Jimmie MacGregor and over the 39 broadcast episodes featured over one hundred performers from Britain and Ireland. The programmes were recorded in the basement studio at Cecil Sharp House, London. Charles Beardsall previewing the first show in the Radio Times wrote:
“This will be the regular rendezvous for the next seven weeks for many leading folk song solo and group singers from all over the British Isles to entertain you in a style as old as the music itself. The big revival in this ‘get-together’ type of singing in pubs, clubs, houses – above ground or in the cellar – has been one of the most distinctive trends in the musical scene in the last few years, and although folk singers have been collecting tunes and lyrics since time immemorial, there still seem many more to be discovered.”
“The greatest English traditional singer of her generation.”
Anne Briggs, billed as “from Nottinghamshire comes Anne Briggs to sing some of those unaccompanied songs she heard first from the gypsies”, sang three songs during the launch episode of Folk-Song Cellar, broadcast on Saturday 13th August 1966. Remarkably these beautiful performances have survived for half a century.
When we approached Anne with the tentative proposal to release these three songs on a vinyl record she was quick to respond – “three songs on an EP are an awkwardness, and it occurred to me that if you needed another song, there might be something recorded from a Nottingham folk club around that time”. She had recently received a tape that “a lifelong friend of mine rescued the recordings, another one cleaned up the tapes, and another one pulled the best together to make a sort of do it yourself C.D. for ‘old times sake’”.
We are indebted to three of Anne’s oldest friends – Gren Blatherwick, Spike Woods and Al Atkinson – who had recorded some songs in their local folk club, The Nottingham Co-op Folk Workshop, and carefully preserved the recordings for decades. All were generous in their support for this project and Al Atkinson was kind enough to offer some of his rare photographs for the sleeve.
These rare, simple, unadorned and intimate performances, aching with poignancy, make their first appearance on record, fifty years after recording and capture Anne Briggs singing at just the right time.
Whilst walking through the fields one Sunday early evening, listening to four blackbirds singing and texting Anne at home in Scotland, we found that we had a perfect title for the record – Four Songs. To be released : 12th August 2016
A perfect companion to her first solo recording – The Hazards of Love – Topic STOP2014