Devin Hoff revisits the songs of Anne Briggs

Devin Hoff
Photograph by Sapir Matmon

Bassist, composer and arranger, Devin Hoff has been studying the music of Anne Briggs for over a decade, transcribing, practicing, arranging and performing songs from her recorded output. Briggs was a leading light of the 1960’s English folk scene, a gifted song-writer and improvisor, as well as an amateur musicologist who revived traditional English, Scottish, and Irish Traveller songs with an unpretentious approach that perhaps presaged the rebellion of punk as much as it honoured tradition. This record is an appreciation of Briggs’ extraordinarily transcendent music, more than a tribute to a persona.

Devin Hoff says, “Voices From the Empty Moor reflects my continued engagement with the musical world opened up to me by the early recordings of Anne Briggs. It is not a folk music record and makes no claims to any historical or cultural traditions other than those brought by the individual musicians involved. And it is not a tribute to a persona as much as an appreciation of music through music.

The process of making this record was about striving to maintain a sense of self and connection amidst loss and tragedy, such as I and too many others have experienced recently. Elegies performed on the double bass bookend seven necessarily remote collaborations with musicians that I admire and count as friends. Roughly half of the songs are sung by singers, the others are ‘sung’ on the double bass, oud, saxophone, and drum set.”

The arrangements on Voices From The Empty Moor include collaborations with musician friends that share a fascination with mining specific folk forms for universal and timeless truths, set against multi-tracked bass choirs, solo upright bass retellings of Briggs’ a capella songs that transcend the limitations of instrument and genre.

Hoff has recorded and performed previously with most of the musicians: he befriended Julia Holter, Shannon Lay and Sharon Van Etten through playing bass for their own projects, oud player Alejandro Farha and saxophonist Howard Wiley are old close friends and long term cohorts. Emmett Kelly and Jim White are more recent collaborators.

Devin Hoff has been active in international creative music circles for decades, performing and recording Solo Bass music as well with a wide range of artists. In addition to the talent assembled here, Hoff has collaborated with legendary iconoclasts such as Yoko Ono and Amiri Baraka, virtuoso instrumentalists Nels Cline, Vijay Iyer, Ben Goldberg and Ava Mendoza, underground heroes Cibo Matto, Jewlia Eisenberg, and Carla Bozulich, and punk rock legends such as Mike Watt, Kira Roessler, and Bill Stevenson among many others.

Voices From the Empty Moor seeks to honour the mystery and beauty of Anne Briggs’ music while maintaining its own unique perspective, foregrounding powerful emotion and magical transformation.

Artist’s website:

‘Go Your Way’ – official video: