Anne Briggs – The Time Has Come (reissue)

Anne Briggs – The Time Has Come (reissue)

As well as going down the whole detective-meets-archivist route to track down and reissue esoteric lost releases from the likes of Steve Warner, Howard Eynon and Mikael Tariverdiev, the much-admired Earth Recordings – London’s lower-key yet increasingly higher-quality answer to Seattle’s Light In The Attic label – has also ventured into untangling the legal bondage around relatively less obscure wares to reissue them with greater care and bespoke affection.  This has meant the likes of Jackson C. Frank, Judy Dyble, Loren Auerbach and – of course – Bert Jansch, all receiving the Earth treatment, either through simple yet solid reissues or via more elaborate repackages.

This new reissue of the second album from the enigmatic Anne Briggs sits amongst the latter branch of Earth’s endeavours; with both a neat essay-laden ‘bookback’ CD version and the first widely vinyl edition in some time.

One of the more awkward and elusive characters to populate and rapidly disappear from the fecund mid-‘60s-to-early-‘70s British folk revival scene, Briggs has never quite commanded the same cult and transcendental status as her main peers; being less of a team-player than Sandy Denny, less musically adventurous than Vashti Bunyan, less feisty than Linda Thompson and less adaptable than Pentangle’s Jacqui McShee.  Yet a slender studio catalogue continues to remind us of Briggs’s importance as an uncompromising outsider with the gift of a distinctively unvarnished voice who briefly passed through a shared spotlight, as this reissue of her 1971 LP exemplifies.

Having begun her career with stark and sometimes austere a cappella renditions of traditional folk songs, the subtle addition of acoustic guitar, bouzouki and light studio treatments as well as the mixture of self-penned songs and covers across The Time Has Come adheres to Briggs’s singular vision whilst bringing greater warmth to the table.  Although preferring to reinterpret the work of others, her first self-composed material gives the record much of its heart; with the likes of the serenely uplifting “Sandman’s Song”, the charmingly airy railroad narrative “Ride, Ride”, the Bert Jansch-like “Tangled Man” and the Appalachian mountain freshness of “Everytime” being true keeper moments in the Briggs canon.  However, the remodelling of non-originals still delivers the goods in-between times; with an imploring reading of Henry McCulloch’s “Step Right Up”, a Joan Baez-channelling cover of Steve Ashley’s “Fire And Wine” and a nimble bouzouki-only rendition of Stan Ellison’s wordless “Clea Caught A Rabbit” being honourable highlights.

Whilst The Time Has Come retains a certain attention-deflecting wariness beneath its generally self-assured character, its unadulterated magnetism has perhaps more pull than even. Satisfyingly, this latest physical release celebrates its status with a respect and sensitivity of which its author might hopefully approve.

Earth Recordings