If you go by what it says on the tin, Lisa Knapp is a folk singer. Her’s has not been the normal route to that position however. Instead of being raised on a diet of traditional songs and records (as say the Unthanks or Eliza Carthy) her formative years were spent listening to rave and hip-hop before she discovered another path in her early twenties. Even then the London born singer and fiddle player took a different route, hooking into the UK capital’s Irish scene.
It shows on this, her second album. While many keep trying to find a genuine meeting point between folk music and a more modern style (with mixed results it has to be said), Knapp straddles the two with ease. Not that this is a four to the floor with a bit of fiddle on top kind of record. Hidden Seam is a deep, luxorious and elegant record that draws the listener into to its own world – “a sense of bold adventure” as Knapp herself sings on the title track. Partnering once again with producer Gerry Diver, the album is a far cry from traditionally structured, join in on the chorus material that you’d find at your local folk club.
Instead the songs – almost exclusively self-penned – twist and turn. Opening track ‘Shipping Song’ is perhaps a little too dense for its own good and may act as a barrier to some but navigate these choppy waters and there are many treasures to be found. Knapp’s voice is an instrument in itself, calling to mind Young Wonder’s Rachel Koeman in its range, yet the record is brought to life by the dramatic combination of sounds that provide the backing. Punching strings drive the music on, tempered by a mix of electronic noises and organic instruments – including Martin Carthy’s distinctive acoustic guitar on ‘Two Ravens’, a stark examination of Alzheimer’s. It’s his appearance – plus guest vocals from James Yorkston and Alisdair Roberts – that gives Hidden Seam a link to a world that it initially seemed to have little in common with.
Thus, instead of creating a work that seeks to bridge the gap between two audiences but leaves both unsatisfied, Lisa Knapp has managed to construct an environment where they can feel at home and also discover new horizons – all without compromising her own vision. It’s an achievement that you’ll be hard pressed to find equalled anywhere else.