HATTIE BRIGGS – Young Runaway (Wise Dog Records WDR003)

Young RunawayIt’s probably true to say that Hattie Briggs has burst onto the scene.  The Gloucestershire based singer/songwriter drew enough confidence from being a BBC2 Young Folk Award nominee to give up reading Russian at Oxford to go full time as a musician.  Her début EP My Shepherd’s Hut was released in 2013, followed by the highly acclaimed début album Red and Gold in 2015 and a trailer EP Here’s To Hoping earlier this year.  Now comes the second full album, Young Runaway.

Produced once again by Peter Waterman this album confirms Hattie Briggs as one of the real rising stars in the modern folk scene.  These are true folk songs, as well.  They aren’t political, nor do they involve the hard life of the working man, but they are about people living their ordinary lives and are told in the most beautiful way. Often in a review the singer will be compared to…but that is not the case here.  Hattie has a distinct voice and as composer (with help on four) of all the songs on the album she is able to write for it to maximum effect.  It’s a beautifully clear voice, too, that can soar and swoop with a clarity that renders a lyric sheet redundant.

The album opens with ‘The Lake’, written on a trip to Lake Como (I think) which in just two simple verses transports the listener to a land of calm water and long, sunlit days. From there the album proceeds through a further 10 tracks, each of which is a quality piece of writing.  Rather than listing them (buy the album and find out for yourself) I’ll pick a few of my personal favourites.

Top of the list is track 3 ‘Here’s to Hoping’. This is a beautiful, probably autobiographical, song about a young woman visiting somewhere, perhaps a former home, and remembering her childhood: “I came back to see you, and your walls, they don’t seem so high to me now that I’m tall.” whilst looking forward to life “Well, maybe I’ll buy you someday and I’ll watch as my children play where I played…” It showcases her voice and range to perfection and conveys that sense of nostalgia and expectation we all feel at times of change in our lives.

That is the theme of this album; spreading your wings and taking off into a future that uncertain but exciting. ‘On Your Way’ (track 4) is exactly that.  Hit the road, live a little, make choices and see what happens. Hattie is also very capable of producing moving ballads that pull at the heartstrings. ‘Castle On the Sand’ (track 8) is such a song.  Accompanying herself on the piano this is a sentimental song regretting lost love and wondering if it could have been different, but knowing it probably won’t be the last time.

This is a very much a singer’s album and the backing, from very accomplished musicians, provides depth to the sound without ever being overpowering.  It’s a lesson that many more acts should take notice of. The sleeve notes promise a third album with a fond wish that Hattie continues to grow as a person and musician.  On this evidence that album will be well worth waiting for but in the meantime listen to, and enjoy, this one from an artist full of confidence in her ability and at the top of her game.

Tony Birch

Artist’s website: http://www.hattiebriggs.co.uk/

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