Anne Briggs is widely regarded as one of the most influential of the revival singers who came into prominence in the mid-1960s, and she enjoyed only a relatively brief recording career prior to her disappearance and deliberate retirement from the scene in the early-'70s. Great news, then, that the estimable Fledg'ling label has recently released an important new Anne Briggs EP, plainly and informatively entitled Four Songs, which brings to the catalogue for the first time these four particular recordings. Three of them (The Recruited Collier, My Bonny Boy and Polly Vaughan) were made by Peter Kennedy for the BBC, in the guise of a fictional folk club setting (actually the basement studio at Cecil Sharp House, we're told) for the launch episode of the radio series Folk-Song Cellar (which, you may remember, was hosted by the then-popular duo Robin Hall and Jimmie MacGregor), as broadcast on Saturday 13th August 1966. The fourth track (The Verdant Braes of Skreen) comes from a genuine folk club, The Nottingham Co-op Workshop, and was recorded there in 1965 by three close friends of Anne's (Gren Blatherwick, Spike Woods and Al Atkinson).
This is an essential release, not least for those who had understood the official Anne Briggs discography to comprise everything known to be extant. Her singing is peerless in whatever setting - simple, unadorned and intimate, and achingly expressive, and these recordings truly encapsulate the unashamed folk revival zeitgeist, This EP forms an ideal supplement and companion to the1964 EP The Hazards Of Love, her first solo recording proper for Topic (which was latterly specially reissued for Record Store Day in 2014). This EP furnished studio recordings of My Bonny Boy and Polly Vaughan which pre-dated those on Four Songs by almost two years, whereas The Recruited Collier had previously been recorded even earlier, for the 1963 Topic themed anthology The Iron Muse. It's interesting to hear how Anne's (already assured) interpretations of these songs had developed in the intervening period; but arguably even more valuable is the quite exceptional performance of The Verdant Braes Of Skreen, a song which doesn't appear anywhere else in Anne's discography. The appearance of the latter track now, after being carefully curated for close on five decades, naturally begs the inevitable question of whether the remaining tracks from the latter folk club evening (practically a CD's worth, the press release tantalisingly hints!) will subsequently surface on an official basis; we can only hope…
Presentation of this valuable Fledg'ling EP is impeccable, and the attractive period sleeve design incorporates some rare photos donated by Al Atkinson.
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