Hid­den Seam

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - folk Tony Hillier

Lisa Knapp Nav­i­ga­tor/Planet

20 Kate Rusby Pure/Planet

WHILE both bask in the em­bers of the Bri­tish folk boom, Lisa Knapp and Kate Rusby are poles apart. With 20, Rusby, one of the re­vival’s se­nior fig­ures, con­tin­ues a con­ser­va­tive ap­proach that has char­ac­terised her pre­vi­ous al­bums. In style, she aligns to the right of Fay Hield, Emily Portman and the Un­thank sis­ters. Knapp oc­cu­pies a niche at the op­po­site end of the spec­trum, along­side mav­er­icks El­iza Carthy, Martha Til­ston and Mary Hamp­ton. Hid­den Seam matches the free-rang­ing prom­ise of her 2007 de­but, Wild and Un­daunted. Knapp’s orig­i­nal­ity, dis­played in in­ven­tive self-penned, trad-in­flu­enced songs, and her un­in­hib­ited singing bring to mind artists Bjork and Ani DiFranco. By con­trast, Rusby’s self­com­po­si­tions are so fas­tid­i­ously and stead­fastly in­formed by tra­di­tion, they could be satir­i­cal. Her an­niver­sary al­bum does scant jus­tice to a score of stellar guests, who are con­signed to per­func­tory sup­port roles as Rusby re­vis­its 20 old favourites from her two-decade ca­reer. Knapp uses her con­trib­u­tors imag­i­na­tively, most no­tably singers James York­ston-Marry Water­son and Alas­dair Roberts in the strik­ing vo­cal round sec­tions of Black Horse and Hunt the Hare; like­wise Kathryn Wil­liams’s sweet har­mony on the less am­bi­tious Hushabye. Martin Carthy’s idio­syn­cratic gui­tar phras­ing fits Two Ravens, a dark song that me­taphor­i­cally al­ludes to Alzheimer’s disease, to a T. Zi Lan’s guzheng (zither) adds a Chi­nese air to the breezier Ruler of the Rest. Else­where, the un­ortho­dox per­cus­sion work of Bel­low­head’s Pete Flood pro­vides a ro­bust pulse. Knapp’s multi-in­stru­men­tal­ist pro­ducer and hus­band Gerry Diver leaves light fin­ger­prints all over the set: au­to­harp and glock­en­spiel here, pedal steel and recorders there, plus key­boards and pro­gram­ming. Rusby’s co-pro­ducer and part­ner Damien O’Kane is sim­i­larly ubiq­ui­tous yet un­ob­tru­sive, con­tribut­ing ex­em­plary gui­tar work as sec­ond fid­dle to man­dolin mae­stro Chris Thile (on Awk­ward An­nie), do­bro mas­ter Jerry Dou­glas ( Sho Heen) and Richard Thomp­son’s in­com­pa­ra­ble elec­tric gui­tar play­ing plus the drum­ming of Ra­dio­head’s Phil Sel­way ( Who Will Sing Me Lul­la­bies). Rusby’s vo­cal duets with her male guests, Thile and Thomp­son on the afore­men­tioned tracks, a har­mon­is­ing Bob Fox on An­nan Waters, a qui­etly pas­sion­ate Nic Jones on The Lark, a pow­er­ful Dick Gaughan on the jaunty brass-en­hanced Jolly Plough Boys and, most un­ex­pect­edly, Paul Weller on Sun Graz­ers hold sway. Paul Brady, Jim Caus­ley and Dave Bur­land’s parts are cu­ri­ously re­strained. The fe­male con­trib­u­tors, save Eddi Reader ( Wan­der­ing Soul), are com­par­a­tively mute, the singing of Sara Watkins, Mary Chapin Car­pen­ter, Aoife O’Dono­van and Sarah Jarosz dis­ap­point­ingly sub­servient to Rusby’s ten­der but ul­ti­mately te­dious mono­tone lead. Knapp’s vo­cals are con­trast­ingly free­wheel­ing, soar­ing and gy­rat­ing with gym­nas­tic ath­leti­cism.

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