17/8/15 – Bert Jansch And Anne Briggs – Blackwaterside – Anne Briggs – The Hazards Of Love EP – 1963 – A Rare Interview With Anne Briggs from The Guardian – 2007

Anne Briggs - The Hazards Of Love EP Cover ArtIf you are a Led Zeppelin fan, you will recognize Blackwaterside as the inspiration for Black Mountainside from Led Zeppelin 1. The song is an old Irish Folk song (Down By The Blackwaterside) taught by Anne Briggs to Bert Jansch who then recorded it on his 1966 album Jack Orion. When Jimmy Page played as a session musician on early Al Stewart albums, Stewart (a Jansch fan) taught it to Jimmy Page.

But although one could write volumes about Bert Jansch, this post is about Anne Briggs and features the EP that June Tabor talked about in the last post – the listening experience that changed her life. Briggs first recorded appearance was on a Topic Records release, The Iron Muse in 1963, her first solo release was an EP recorded in the same year. It was a cappella and featured four traditional songs – Lowlands, My Bonny Boy, Polly Vaughan and Rosemary. There was a gap of 7 years before she recorded again, making two albums in 1971, the first, self-titled, mainly continued with the a cappella tradition, on the second, The Time Has Come she explored writing songs mixed with traditional content and acoustic guitar but also added the unusual choice of bouzouki that she taught herself to play after partner Johnny Moynihan from Ireland’s Sweeney’s Men had played the instrument on her debut album. Two years later she made, Sing A Song For You (1973), dissatisfied with her singing she stopped its release, it was her last studio album – it finally came out 23 years after the recording in 1997.

Briggs has been a huge influence on artist much better known than her – Bert Jansch, Jimmy Page, Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny, June Tabor, Maddy Prior – Denny wrote The Pond And The Stream as a tribute to Briggs on the Fotheringay album released in 1970. Richard Thompson’s Beeswing from Mirror Blue released in 1994 is about her.

RICHARD THOMPSON: “I wrote the song Beeswing kind of about her. There
was a thing in the 60s where people dropped out to live in the country and get
their heads together. People like Vashti Bunyan and Annie Briggs: these wild,
free spirited women. They were quite inspirational. Anne was great. I saw her a
couple of times in folk clubs, but the only times I only actually ever met her
she had drunk herself into unconsciousness.”

In later years, Eliza Carthy, Kate Rusby and James Yorkston have cited her as an influence. American Indie Folk band, The Decemberists’ concept album, The Hazards Of Love was inspired by her EP.

To call her a reluctant star would be a massive understatement and although she has sporadically performed as a guest she has resisted returning to the studio. You might call her the ultimate organic artist, considering any recording not the real thing, the real thing is performing live, being there, experiencing the moment, the middle-man that is the studio doesn’t rate as a choice for communicating the magic of music. When you listen to her first EP her attitude to this makes complete sense, the need for being there is plainly obvious – with Briggs it is 100% real or it’s nothing at all. All very well, but the problem is that she doesn’t really like performing live either, To call her a reluctant star would be a massive understatement and although she has sporadically performed as a guest she has resisted returning to the studio. You might call her the ultimate organic artist, considering any recording not the real thing, the real thing is performing live, being there, experiencing the moment, the middle-man that is the studio doesn’t rate as a choice for communicating the magic of music. When you listen to her first EP her attitude makes complete sense – with Briggs it is 100% real or it’s nothing at all. All very well, but the problem is that she doesn’t really like performing live either, she is famously hypercritical of her own work and has seemingly abandoned the idea of performing or recording completely.

This is a link to a rare interview with Anne Briggs from The Guardian in 2007 after The Time Has Come was reissued in that year.

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2007/aug/03/folk.shopping1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Down_by_Blackwaterside

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Mountain_Side

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Briggs

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hazards_of_Love_(EP)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bert_Jansch

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Orion

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fotheringay