Lisa Knapp first emerged in 2007 with a remarkable, independently released debut Wild And Undaunted which was followed a full seven years later by the equally striking Hidden Seam. Both albums were met with critical acclaim and saw Lisa established as one of the most creative and distinctive artists around. Her third solo album, Til April Is Dead – A Garland of May Songs is due for release by Ear to the Ground Records on 28th April 2017.
This sparklingly fresh album features eleven startlingly original versions of traditional songs. With a radiant interpretation of traditional folk, Lisa merges fiddle, hammer dulcimer and strings, with birdsong and sonic delights from the technological age. ‘May Garland’, which Lisa found at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, reminds us – “a man a man, his life’sa span, he flourishes like a flower, he’s here today and gone tomorrow, he’s gone all in an hour” – that in the midst of celebration, there are limits on our time. Lisa is joined by another ground-breaking folk singer, Mary Hampton on ‘Bedfordshire May Carol’. Lisa’s version of the title track, ‘Til April Is Dead/Hal-An-Tow’ was inspired by the Mystery Play in Helston, Cornwall. Originally printed as ‘The Maypole Song’ in 1656, ‘Staines Morris’ has a melody with a courtly, theatrical sound and this version features the lively and mischievous vocals of David Tibet. In ‘Searching For Lambs’ – a song Lisa first heard sung by Shirley Collins – she is joined by Graham Coxon. Both Lisa and Graham have performed with Shirley and here he lends his vocals and guitar to this English folksong gem.
Lisa first conceived a May EP to mark a time of year that has long been celebrated in the folklore calendar. Many children growing up in the UK have experienced dancing around a Maypole. The Victorian version, complete with pretty ribbons, was a modern vestige of a much older practice dating back to at least 1400, probably earlier. May songs are sung across Northern Europe, suggesting that even when the language alters, the ideas, beliefs and customs across borders remain similar. With inventive production by respected producer and partner, Gerry Diver, Lisa populates her latest recordings with the sounds of insects and birds, making the connection with landscape and nature emerging, teetering on the edge of eruption. She also makes use of old clocks, bells and barrel organs, considered to have been ‘modern’ musical gadgets in the 18-19ths century when many of the May traditions we’re still familiar with took place.
As well as now being synonymous with International Workers Day on 1st May – the entire month is long been filled with celebration of the cycle of life, of summer coming in; of May garlands, May Queens, chimney sweeps making Jack in the Greens and Milkmaids dressing themselves in silver pots and pans – at odds with the mundane aspect of the everyday, descriptions of these events now seem evocative, raucous and strange.
A South Londoner born and bred, Lisa’s early musical development led her through drum and bass, teenage raves, acid house and an electric guitar bought to learn Jimi Hendrix songs. In her teens, she also came across folk music when she heard a friend’s record collection and she was hooked! In the intervening years, Lisa has established and evolved her own distinctive voice. She’s toured the UK with her own band, but also in the company of James Yorkston, Sam Lee and Leafcutter John and most recently, as a special guest of Shirley Collins on her ‘Lodestar’ live shows.
Lisa regularly appears at UK festivals and alongside a diverse range of artists on the stages of London’s Southbank and Barbican Centres. Lisa has appeared on BBC Radio 2/3/4 & 6Music and has also presented an acclaimed documentary for BBC Radio 4 called Shipping Songs, based on the Shipping Forecast and one of her tracks, described as “one of the most original and astonishing songs of the sea you could wish for” – Folk Radio.
Artist’s website: www.lisaknapp.co.uk
‘May Garland’ – Lisa live with Gerry Diver: