Over the past few weeks, I’ve seemed to accumulate a pretty impressive bunch of folk and folk-rock reissues on my desk. The most recent to turn up is a straightforward reissue of Anne Briggs’ first self-titled LP, on the excellent Water label out of San Francisco.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve seemed to accumulate a pretty impressive bunch of folk and folk-rock reissues on my desk. The most recent to turn up is a straightforward reissue of Anne Briggs’ first self-titled LP, on the excellent Water label out of San Francisco.



In truth, there’s not much new to say about this wonderful record, though it’s one of the minuscule number of things that make me remotely proud of, or even remotely connected to, my Nottinghamshire cultural heritage (which reminds me: fuck you, Durham, Hampshire and Sussex County Cricket Clubs). But it’s interesting to play “Anne Briggs” next to that recently released compilation of Shirley & Dolly Collins material on Harvest. The starkness, a certain still and faintly unnerving beauty, might be similar. The difference in East Midlands and Southern English traditions and accents, though, are striking. Great music, but you probably already knew that.

As is the debut by Trees, “The Garden Of Jane Delawney”, which is getting a rather more lavish makeover, with a cluster of extra tracks (some of them actually recorded this summer). Trees often get a bit of a bum deal, being seen as a rather second-rate Fairport Convention. But “Jane Delawney” is a fine record in its own right, maybe even better than “On The Shore”.

There a much-used comparison point between early Fairports and Jefferson Airplane, and a later one that relates the “Liege & Lief”-era band as a British analogue of The Band. Trees, though, often sound like a Notting Hill Grateful Dead, as the traditional songs and Bias Boshell originals frequently spiral off into very Dead-like, labyrinthine jams (“The Great Silkie”; “Lady Margaret”; “Glasgerion”). The version of “She Moved Thro’ The Fair”, especially, has a weightless elegance not a million miles away from “Dark Star”.

“Snail’s Lament” is superb, and the new tracks aren’t bad either – it’d be nice if they played some live shows since they’re evidently back together in the studio. Which reminds me; I wonder if Comus might play again, after their reunion was limited to that weird Opeth festival on a Scandinavian ferry?

Not much chance of that happening with Fotheringay, sadly, though that band’s surviving members – Jerry Donahue, Pat Donaldson and Gerry Conway – have worked together to do a fantastic restoration job on the tapes which would’ve made up that band’s second album, had not Sandy Denny departed for a solo career.

The resulting “Fotheringay 2” is something of a marvel, a properly ‘lost’ album from the golden age of British folk-rock. Not all of it is completely unfamiliar: “John The Gun” and the peerless “Late November” ended up on Denny’s “North Star Grassman”, of course, and there are one or two other Denny leads that have turned up on various comps over the past few years (don’t ask me which ones; I think I’ve lost control of my ever-increasing Denny/Fairports collection).

The whole thing hangs together fantastically well, though, not least because the songs fronted by Trevor Lucas are surprisingly strong, and there’s a real sense of a band – remarkable given that they were falling apart at the time – rather than a Denny project. One of the best things here is his noble, faintly martial take on “Bold Jack Donahue”,with some magically subtle, aqueous playing from Jerry Donahue.

I guess the biggest lure, though, is Denny singing “Wild Mountain Thyme”, as strong and pure and affecting as you’d imagine. An amazing find, all told.