Devin Hoff has been intensively studying the music of Anne Briggs for over a decade, transcribing, practicing, arranging and performing songs from her limited recorded output. Briggs was a leading light of the 1960’s English folk scene, a gifted songwriter and improvisor, as well as an amateur musicologist who revived traditional English, Scottish, and Irish Traveler songs with an unpretentious approach that perhaps presaged the rebellion of punk as much as it honored tradition. This record is an appreciation of Briggs' extraordinarily transcendent music, more than a tribute to a persona. Today, Hoff is sharing the second single from the record, “Go Your Way” featuring Sharon Van Etten.
Devin Hoff states: “Go Your Way is the Anne Briggs song that I first fell in love with, and I think I am not alone in that. There is an enigmatic beauty in the melody that highlights the sadness of the lyrics, yet seems to offer a counter-narrative at the same time. This is how I approached the simple bass and voice arrangement I made for the inimitable Sharon Van Etten to sing on. Maybe there is something beautiful in being left behind, yet having the capacity to hope that at least the one who left is finding joy in their own freedom? Sometimes allowing for that autonomy is the best we can do for one another.”
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.
The arrangements here 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. The collaborations came about very organically through casually inviting musician friends to participate. 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, whereas Emmett Kelly and Jim White are more recent collaborators.
Voices From the Empty Moor seeks to honor the mystery and beauty of Anne Briggs’ music while maintaining its own unique perspective, foregrounding powerful emotion and, hopefully, magical transformation.
- She Moved Through the Fair
(trad. arranged by D. Hoff; basses-D. Hoff)
- Go Your Way
(words and music-Anne Briggs; vocals-Sharon van Etten; basses-D. Hoff)
- Let No Man Steal Your Thyme
(trad. arranged by D. Hoff; vocals-Julia Holter; basses-D. Hoff)
- Maa Bonny Lad
(trad. arranged by D. Hoff; saxophone-Howard Wiley; basses-D. Hoff)
- Living By the Water
(words and music-Anne Briggs; vocals-Shannon Lay; basses-D. Hoff)
- The Snow It Melts the Soonest/My Bonny Boy
(trad. arranged by D. Hoff; oud-Alejandro Farha; bass-D. Hoff)
- Black Waterside
(trad. arranged by D. Hoff; vocals-Emmett Kelly; basses-D. Hoff)
- Willie O’ Winsbury
(trad. arranged by D. Hoff; drums-Jim White; guitar and basses-D. Hoff)
- The Lowlands
(trad. arranged by D. Hoff; bass-D. Hoff)