The response to her debut EP, "My Shepherd's Hut", which included a BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards nomination, led the crystal pure voiced Gloucestershire-based singer songwriter to quit Oxford University and focus on music full time. Since then, she's released last year's "Red & Gold" album, earning Best Debut award from the Laurel Canyon Music Awards, as well as playing over 100 dates across the UK and Europe. Somewhere along the way, she also found time to slip into Monmouth's Monnow Valley studios with producer Peter (I bet he gets tired of 'not that one') Waterman and record this sophomore self-penned collection that features contributions from Dan Cassidy on violin, Matt Park on pedal steel and 2016 Young Folk Award nominee Jack Cookson on guitar and bass.
Retaining her folk roots but bringing a poppier, and at times country, sensibility to the melodies, it's a summery, upbeat affair buoyed with optimism and variously informed by her decision to leave university, her childhood and travelling. The latter is particularly true of album opener "The Lake", an acoustic, cello-veined rippling number, which also features Briggs on ukulele, inspired by a visit to Lake Garda that, in the manner of the Romantic poets and artists, seeks to capture the sense of nature in its permanence and grandeur. That same holiday is also the source of the lilting "Summertime Man" with its talk of heading for the coast, ice cream and exploring, but also a reminder to come back home, Park carrying the tune along with his pedal steel.
The instrument also adds a country-tinge to the slow-waltzing track, "Lift Me Up", another travelling song, inspired by the sense of adventure embodied in the 1930s suitcase she takes on tour, Briggs' voice soaring up through the chorus. There's even more of a country feel to the glorious swayalong "Here's To Hoping", Briggs' younger self optimistically imagining what may lie ahead, a theme that carries over into "On Your Way", a sunny folk-rock song about her decision to leave academia and follow music and on which you might hear hints of the young Joni Mitchell had she been born in the Cotswolds. That Laurel Canyon vibe is also true of the lazing fingersnap and doo wop of "Digging To Australia", a poke at herself for sometime being too serious but also an acknowledgement that it takes hard work and determination to achieve your ambitions.
As well as providing harmonica, Cookson also co-wrote and duets on "Have We Met Before", a strummed rustic feeling ballad inspired by the many people to whose paths fate has led her since embarking on her life as a full-time musician. By way of contrast, melancholic piano backdrops "Castle on the Sand", a rumination on the heartaches you encounter along the way, just as "Talk To Me", with its complex, moodier, percussive-pulse and cello arrangement, addresses the need to unburden yourself and expose your wounds if you're going to heal and put yourself back together.
Returning to her carpe diem theme, with its steady drum beat and circling acoustic guitar, the folksy "You Only Live Once" serves reminder not to let opportunities pass you by or waste the hours doing things that you're going to regret further down the line, though this should be seen as embracing life rather than some sort of ruthless single-mindedness.
The album ends with "The River", a water-themed sister song to "The Lake" and a co-write between Briggs, Waterman and Asha McArthy whose cello and Cassidy's violin interweave with the acoustic guitar as Briggs reflects on the sometimes too fast a journey from adolescence to adulthood.
Just as her last album was titled from a line on an Eva Cassidy album, this one is lifted from James Taylor's "Travelling Star". She's most certainly that, and long may the road stretch out far before her.
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