Duffle Vintage Outfitters in John Street isn't an obvious place for a gig but it provided a glorious setting for the gems offered up by Hattie Briggs last Friday evening (May 19th).
Back in January this focused 24 year old announced 12 Months of Madness and boldly promised to issue a different limited edition CD in each month of 2017. So it was that over 100 people squeezed into this eye-catching venue to catch Stroud's sweetest songbird launching May's release, the 5 track EP Hide...
Amidst a colourful array of jackets, shirts, dresses, footwear, furniture, lamps and guitars the audience were first treated to a Tennessee-drenched set from husband and wife duo The Black Feathers. It was the perfect warm-up: opening up ears to harmonies and hearts to human warmth. There was a brief interval punctuated with free cup cakes courtesy of one of Hattie's super-fans before we resumed.
Tonight Hattie is flanked by cellist/vocalist Jasmine Scott Neale and guitarist/pedal steel maestro Matt Park, and the sound is sensational. Something about the soft furnishings, the crowd, the ambience, the evening, colludes to create such a sumptuous sonic landscape and from the off it's clear we're all in for a treat.
Hattie moves effortlessly between keyboard and guitar, the songs interspersed with stories and tales of her, her life, how each slice of ear-watering aural brilliance came about. Never one to avoid covering any song she loved, she now has a back catalogue many artists would die for and can re-visit her own earlier material and breathe new life into it. It's a measure of how much she has developed as an artist that she can do this. Not only that. She writes to order. "A gentleman approached me" she tells us in crystal clear soft tones. "His wife is a well known poet. He asked me to put one of her poems to music and record it for her birthday." She continues. "The poem was only 8 lines long". Her eyebrows shoot up and she bursts into a broad smile. "That will get you about, I don't know..." she shrugs "30 seconds". The audience laugh. We've all taken her into our hearts. "So I wrote another four verses, and it goes like this". With that she turns to her companions to check they are ready. They must have heard that story many times before, but they're looking at her. They are ready, and like us, they love her too.
The EP itself is a marvel. Not a duff track on it and both the title track and her song “Just Breathe" stand out for the strength of her songwriting, the extraordinary depth of her voice, the wisdom in her lyrics and the sheer downright musicality of it all. If she comes anywhere near you or your friends, do yourself and them a favour. Go see her. Buy something. Tell everyone. She's unlikely to fit into venues like the marvellous Duffle for much longer...
Hide is out now and available via hattiebriggs.co.uk
John McLellan (@JohnMacOchAye) is a music-loving Scot regularly found dancing inappropriately in the Stroud area. He cut his writing teeth with the Stroud Pamphlet Poets and regularly polishes them with the Montpelier Writing Group in Cheltenham. .