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Lisa Knapp - Hidden Seam (Review)

Lisa Knapp, Hidden Seam

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

LISA Knapp created something of a stir in folk circles with her debut album Wild And Undaunted way back in 207. She looks set to repeat the trick with her long-awaited sophomore effort, Hidden Seam.

Boasting colourful collaborations with the likes of James Yorkston, Kathryn Williams and Alasdair Roberts (to name but three), this feels like a fuller bodied record that embraces both traditional folk elements and something more robust, ambitious and epically cinematic.

Knapp’s vocals remain the type of which are easy to relax into. But her lyricism continues to explore diverse areas of interest to her. The result is an album that is, by turns, thrilling, laidback, atmospheric and hugely impressive.

Shipping Song, the album’s opening track, arises from Knapp’s fascination with the Met Office’s somnambulant, poetic late night shipping forecast. It opens in low-key fashion, with the sound of the sea, and slow-builds into something quite endearing.

Knapp’s vocals assume a dream-like quality early on (with a touch of the ethereal about them), before the song eventually blossoms into something quite intoxicating, complete with lovely piano flourishes, a recording of American Marine sound testing from the 1950s was seamlessly sewn in and the sounds of sea creatures and spinning motors.

Title track Hidden Seam similarly slow-builds, with horns and strings jostling for position amid piano chords and another stark vocal. It hits its stride around the minute and 50 second mark, when the cinematic elements come out, and the track assumes a beauty that’s quite seductive in its own way.

A couple of tracks on and things get even better. Black Horse is a song by the great, late English singer/songwriter, Lal Waterson, which Knapp was originally invited to perform on tour with Scottish singer and guitarist James Yorkston.

Not only does James guest on this recording but Lisa was also thrilled to be joined by Lal’s daughter, Marry Waterson. It’s one of the LP’s most gritty moments and thrives on the vocal interplay between these two distinct singers. It’s rousing too.

Seagiver, a visceral song of death and the elements, may then revert back to the slow-build approach, but again the gradual layering of strings and pianos and drums eventually adds up to a thrilling whole.

Two Ravens, a touching song about Alzheimers disease, then finds Knapp realising a personal dream by dueting with Martin Carthy – and it’s worth the singer having plucked up the courage.

The penultimate tracks on Hidden Seam, Hunt The Hare Parts 1 and 2 feature acclaimed Scottish folk musician, Alasdair Robert, and were originally based on the well known Irish song Rocky Road to Dublin, before evolving into a song about the month of May. It harks back to more classic folk elements, particularly during the opening of Part I, but it does showcase Knapp’s appreciation for all facets of the folk movement. Part II has some great guitar work on it.

Finally, Hushabye ends things on a deeply personal, intimate note and takes the form of a lullaby style song that Knapp regularly sang to her daughter. It’s beautifully delivered, sedate in its own way (and atmospheric too), while finding Knapp accompanied by celebrated singer/songwriter, Kathryn Williams.

It’s a great way to round off an impressive sophomore effort.

Download picks: Black Horse, Hidden Seam, Seagiver, Hushabye

Track listing:

  1. Shipping Song
  2. Hidden Seam
  3. Ruler of the Rest
  4. Black Horse feat James Yorkston
  5. Seagiver
  6. Two Ravens feat Martin Carthy
  7. Hunt The Hare Part I feat Alasdair Roberts
  8. Hunt The Hare Part II
  9. Hushabye feat Kathryn Williams