11 Feb 2018

New Horizons: folk singer Lisa Knapp

From New Horizons, 5:00 pm on 11 February 2018

William Dart features the music of Lisa Knapp, an English folksinger-songwriter with tiny hints of Kate Bush and Björk to her sound.

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Photo: Artist supplied

Here are the eight songs by Lisa Knapp in this edition of New Horizons. For extra gold, listen to the complete show by clicking the link above.

1. Lisa Knapp with David Rotheray - 'Mrs Jones' Song'

Lisa Knapp appeared on David Rotheray's 2013 album Answer Ballads. Rotheray gathered a clutch of singers, mainly women, to pose his responses to well-known songs from The Police's 'Roxanne' to Rod Stewart's 'Maggie May'.

Lisa Knapp took on 'Mrs Jones' Song' - the answer to the classic Billy Paul cheating song, 'Me and Mrs Jones'.

2. 'Blacksmith'

From her debut album, 2006's 'Wild and Undaunted', Knapp gives us her take on the traditional 'A Blacksmith Courted Me'. The remix by mixmaster Youth is flecked with many diverse colours, plucked, strummed and struck.

For comparison, William briefly features Phoebe Smith's version of the same song, delivered unadorned and recorded in her Suffolk parlour in 1969 by Topic Records. Check out the complete programme from the audio link above.

3. 'Shipping Song'

The opening track of her second album Hidden Seam was inspired, she tells us, by her chilling out to a somnambulant, poetic, late night shipping forecast. Juicy sea noises here courtesy of Oliver Cherer.

4. 'Two Ravens'

Another song from Hidden Seam ... this one shares a title with a chilling Scottish folksong in which two corries feed on the corpse of a knight. But this is an original and it's about the ravages of Alzheimers - memory and thought disappearing along with skin and bones. It's chamber music-like accompaniment sits well with Knapp's compassionate but often forceful delivery. Veteran guitarist Martin Carthy is a welcome guest.

5. 'Searching for Lambs'

And so we arrive at Knapp's third and most recent album, Till April is Dead, a celebration of the English month of May and all the merriment that that entails. Not that it precludes a rather severely beautiful performance of this pastoral seduction song. Features some stark duetting between Knapp and Graham Coxon.

6. 'The Night Before May Day'

From the beginning of the new album, Knapp approaches her brief almost in the spirit of a documentarist. Much of the album is inspired by a visit to Padstow in Cornwall for the 'Obby 'Oss May Day. In her version of the traditional song anticipating the celebrations, we hear the voice of folksong scholar and encyclopedist Steve Roud.

7. 'Till April is Dead'

Knapp bases this song on the Cornish party song 'Hal An Tow' although it takes her a while to get to the tune with buzzing bees and a crush of voices crowding in.

8. 'Padstow May Song'

The final track of the album catches the excitement of the 'Obby 'Oss festival with a glorious welter of sound from wheezy harmonium to cheeky cuckoo clocks. And drums, which previously offered premonitions of thunder, now launch what is almost a resplendent tattoo.


The programme opens with ... well, Billy Paul of course. (Click 'Listen' above).

Music Details

'Song title' (Composer) – Performers
Album title

'Me and Mrs Jones' (Gamble et al) – Billy Paul
360 Degrees of Billy Paul

'Mrs Jones' Song' (Rotheray) – David Rotheray ft. Lisa Knapp
Answer Ballads

'A Blacksmith Courted Me' (Trad) – Phoebe Smith
Once I Had a True Love

'A Blacksmith Courted Me' (Trad) – Lisa Knapp
Wild and Undaunted
(Ear to the Ground)

'Shipping Song' (Knapp/Diver) – Lisa Knapp
Hidden Seam

'Two Ravens' (Knapp) – Lisa Knapp
Hidden Seam

'Searching for Lambs' (Trad) – Lisa Knapp
Till April is Dead
(Ear to the Ground)

'The Night Before May Day' (Trad) – Lisa Knapp
Till April is Dead
(Ear to the Ground)

'Till April is Dead' (Trad) – Lisa Knapp
Till April is Dead
(Ear to the Ground)

'Padstow Obby Oss May Song' (Trad) – Lisa Knapp
Till April is Dead
(Ear to the Ground)

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