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Folk - To be released March 22, 2019 | Topic
Few legends loom larger than Anne Briggs in the history of British folk; she was a dazzlingly gifted young prodigy who was discovered by Ewan MacColl in 1962 and sporadically performed and recorded until 1973, when she decided she didn't care for the sound of her voice on record and walked away from her career, presumably for good. Briggs had recorded a pair of EPs and contributed to some compilation albums in the 1960s but didn't recorded a full LP until 1971, when she cut her full-length debut for the well-respected British folk label Topic Records. Of Briggs' three albums, Anne Briggs is easily the purest and most austere; Briggs sings a cappella on six of the ten songs, and on the rest she's accompanied only by an acoustic guitar or bouzouki, and the production is clean and straightforward, as if a microphone was placed in the room with Briggs and the results were put to tape with no further filtering or manipulation. Briggs' voice is stunning in its clarity and her command of her instrument is complete on these ten selections, but what makes this album a lasting classic is Briggs' gift as an interpreter. There's precious little in the way of forced drama in these performances, but Briggs inhabits these songs the way a truly gifted actor can slip completely into a character, and with the simplest tools at her disposal she turns these age-old melodies (with two Briggs originals for seasoning) into stories that draw the listener in, holding them breathless through the full ten minutes of "Young Tambling." Briggs draws from the classic repertoire of British folk on this album (two of the same songs would later appear on Fairport Convention's ground-breaking Liege & Lief), but she was willing to embrace idiosyncratic versions of these songs (most notably "Young Tambling," better known as "Tam Lin," and "The Cuckoo") and her interpretations are singular in their beauty and eloquence. In the liner notes that accompany the 2008 reissue of this album, Ken Hunt points out that many of the stories that circulate about Briggs' wild, nomadic life are myth rather than reality. But one has only to listen to Anne Briggs to realize that the legends of her gifts as a singer are rooted firmly in fact, with these recordings as proof. ~ Mark Deming
Folk - To be released March 22, 2019 | Topic
After a gap of about three years between releases, Shirley Collins returned to recording with the 1967 LP The Sweet Primeroses. While the U.K. folk scene was undergoing some changes at the time, in part due to the influence of folksingers writing their own material and the emergence of folk-rock, those influences aren't felt at all on this set, which remains traditional to the core. Collins' distinctively resonant, slightly smoky/husky voice is accompanied only by her own guitar and banjo, as well as her sister Dolly Collins' portative organ; there are a few a cappella performances as well. Occasionally there are also choral backing vocals provided by the Young Tradition, although that group was not credited on the original release. The tracks on which she's backed by Dolly's organ in particular have a medieval, slightly haunting feel, as if you actually are listening to something being performed several centuries ago, not in the 1960s. Even given that Shirley Collins often performed British folk music of the most traditional sort, the starkness of this particular collection might make it among her less accessible works, at least for those in the process of acquainting themselves with her music. For those who know they like her voice, though, this won't fail to please them. The CD reissue adds four tracks from her 1963 EP Heroes in Love that, despite the four-year gap, are so similar in flavor that you wouldn't suspect they were recorded at a different time, though these feature only banjo accompaniment. ~ Richie Unterberger
Folk in the magazine
- Lone wolf
- A folk journey
- We say Yes to Michael Nau !
- Olivia Chaney, folk pop full of grace
First Aid Kit, once upon a time in America...
When they released The Big Black And The Blue in 2010, Johanna and Klara Söderberg were 20 and 23 years old respectively. The two Swedish sisters quickly made a name for themselves at the top of the charts thanks to their covers of songs by Fleet Foxes, Lorde, Jack White and even Black Sabbath… T...