Wednesday, 9 May 2018

GIG REVIEW: Hattie Briggs - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Tuesday 8th May 2018

Hattie Briggs is a young English singer-songwriter gathering increased acclaim on the UK folk and acoustic scene. As part of her 2018 strategy, she has undertaken a run of live dates that was approaching the end when she made a return visit to the Kitchen Garden in Birmingham. Another impressive turnout greeted Hattie and her musical companion Matt Park as she set about sharing a bunch of songs reflecting a productive start to a recording career. Whether accompanied by guitar or piano, a renowned song writing capability oozed from a sculptured voice. This latter trait aligns Hattie closer to the folk community than her approach to song writing, musicianship or outlook. Indeed, the pedal steel output proved the most ear catching part of the instrumental soundtrack.

Prior to Hattie and Matt taking to the performing area, an artist active on the local scene by the name of Esther Turner shared a selection of her original songs with the audience. These numbers possessed an indie-pop dimension and were representative of a generation exploring the medium of communicating via song. Esther’s charisma, level of assuredness and capacity to express an impressively constructed song were vividly on display. Maybe more connective environments await her, but the credentials to make an impact are steadfastly secure.

Transcending the generations is written all over the music of Hattie Briggs and right from launching into ‘Never Been in Love Before’ evidence advocating the accrued acclaim surfaced. In true singer-songwriter tradition, Hattie took the time to introduce each of the fourteen songs chosen, some with just the title but others with more furnishing of the background. She generally comes across as an introspective writer, focussing heavily on feelings and emotion, rather than a wider template that would synchronize her more to the core folk community. One aspect of the writing process particularly honed in on is the personal commission. Songs such as ‘Early Girl’, ‘Ma Regina’ and ‘Time’ have been born from this path.

The last two were part of a quintet of songs that stood out as the most appealing on the evening. The latter formed the single song encore with a lovely pedal steel part slipping the tune in a country direction. The other song has yet to surface in any recorded format, but the interchange between the French and English language in the line structure worked really well. Two of the other key moments were the Pete and Peggy Seeger inspired ‘A Beautiful Mind’ and the sole inclusion from the YOUNG RUNAWAY album on the set list, the delightful ‘Lift Me Up’.

The sublime standout moment of the evening was hard to dispute, as Hattie needed nothing more than a single piano accompaniment to pour everything into ‘Just Breathe’, introduced as a song dedicated to her mother. The space afforded Hattie on that song was key. Elsewhere Matt generally provided a subtle sound, continually switching between the triple guitar approach of electric, acoustic and pedal steel. Some kind of backtracking was occasionally used to supplement the rhythm, which while working most of the time did briefly overpower the songs. For a fleeting moment, the sonic surroundings of the Kitchen Garden were not being fully utilised.

Away from Hattie’s own material, a ‘version’ of Eva Cassidy’s ‘version’ of the jazz standard ‘Autumn Leaves’ excelled, especially when adorned with more pedal steel. Out of the singles that are being periodically released this year, an upcoming soulful effort titled ‘Up to You’ resounded with greater effect than the current promoted song ‘Say Goodbye’.

An evening heralded a success was frequented by seasoned Hattie Briggs regulars and others experiencing a show for the first time. Across the board, what was witnessed was a clear and concise display of who she is as an artist and where the strengths lie. A beautiful voice to wrap around some serenely crafted songs is not a bad starting point.

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