Though a singer-songwriter-guitarist by trade, Saffron initially came to folk fans' attention when she briefly replaced Judy Dyble in the Trader Horne duo with Jackie McAuley. It was not until 1974 that she managed to record her first solo LP, Salisbury Plain, a singularly impressive record which encompassed a mix of styles and inspirations, all bound together by Saffron's attractive, distinctive singing voice. The first five tracks couldn't have been a more diverse bunch, in fact. Meet You There is pure Chelsea-Morning: breezy, driven Joni Mitchell-esque whimsy; her confident, ornate take on The Dowie Dens Of Yarrow is outstanding; the melancholy harmonium-backed title song is blessed with an intimate aura that recalls Shirley & Dolly Collins; and in complete contrast Francis Road Rag is one of those joyously late-60s-Ralph McTell moments, bluesy ragtime par excellence. The Sisters Of St. Mildred is another mournful gem, the ruminative Six Years Or More has a definite Bridget St. John/early-Sandy Denny feel, and closing track A Little Dutch Toon is just cheery, cheeky good fun (reminded me a lot of those playful early ISB songs like Dandelion Blues).
Saffron's supporting musicians (George Norris, Alison Bailey and Laurie Rhodes, with Mick Rogan) do a brilliant job throughout, and happily their contributions were sought once again for album number two, Fancy Meeting You Here!, which came out two years later, in 1976. Its overall sound was if anything closer to the Trader Horne vibe than its predecessor, in that it wouldn't have seemed out of place anywhere in the early 70s. Perhaps its time-shift/throwback quality was a factor in its comparative lack of commercial success - indeed, the present reissue has afforded me a very welcome chance to get to know both albums, which all but passed me by at the time of their original release. The songs on Fancy Meeting You Here! range from the charmingly defiant I Won't Stand Up to the comforting intimacy of Picture In A Frame, by way of the evocative landscape of Lewis (shades of Donovan in the quiversome vocal), the sparky portrait of a brave woman (Passion For A Child), the delicate folk-baroque of Taurus, the delightful Touching, the poignant parting-song September, and the album's only cover - a busy, nervy, edgy (and rather successful) cover of Eleanor Rigby.
Both of these early LPs, helpfully reissued by Talking Elephant as a two-on-one-CD, show Saffron to be a major, and very individual, songwriting talent with a nice line in musical accomplishment and a powerful sense of artistic vision. Happily, she's still very much part of the scene, still plying her trade and constantly touring both in the UK and abroad and writing songs for TV and radio. (Long may she thrive!) In spite of their potent zeitgeist, these albums really don't sound dated, and they richly deserve a place in your collection.
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