Lisa Knapp released the EP titled ‘Hunt The Hare – A Branch of May‘ on the first day of May. It features a collection of songs based around and inspired by the month of May. As anyone who dabbles in folklore will know, the month of May is one of busiest when it comes to rituals and festivals. Traditions range from ‘beating the bounds’ which often resulted in punch-ups where parish boundaries met, to the more genteel pleasures of bathing your face in May Dew (gathering May dew / bringing in the May). Not forgetting the very popular Padstow Hobby Horse (Obby Oss) and Maypole dancing, there are many more.
If you’re not fascinated by the traditions of May then you may well be after you hear this EP. From the outset Lisa Knapp cleverly builds a world where perceptions are fully immersed in the magic and mystery of May. Lisa’s singing on the opening song ‘A May Garland‘ has a child-like innocence, part joyous and part supernatural, a feeling that is deepened by the clever use of fiddle and immersive field recordings. It’s like stepping into another world, a world which feels innocent enough on the surface but you’re never quite sure what lies beneath, a subtle gesture maybe towards the wilder and more chaotic rituals of May that fell out of vogue or were tamed by Victoran society.
The two part ‘Hunt the Hare‘ title track is the perfect heart for this EP which welcomes in the month of May with the help of Alasdair Roberts (Urstan Interview). The track was produced by Gerry Diver (Speech Project interview) and also features Bellowhead’s Pete Flood on percussion. Lisa’s vocals come to the fore on this split-track, a modern day Shirley Collins that contrasts perfectly to Alasdair’s equally unique sounding voice.
The Pleasant Month of May makes clever use of arrangements creating a slow building rythmic start on bass to a full-on joyful celebration welcoming the warming sun…before returning to the chore of hay-making. A reminder that the celebration of May is short-lived before we return to our every-day lives.
The finale ‘Green Jack‘ is another cornucopia of field recordings and village sounds, the words for which Lisa based on written quotes from Roy Judge’s ‘The Jack-in-the-Green’…it’s a song of great beauty and the perfect ending…recollections of the Jack-in-the-Green ritual which featured an odd looking magical character that once use to be reularly seen dancing the streets on May Day. Lisa brings the magic of this ritual alive again in this song, a reminder of our rich folkloric history and why we should strive to preserve it.
Hunt the Hare excels with ingenuity and magic and sets Lisa Knapp at the forefront and heart of the English Folk Renaissance, an incredible EP.
Hunt The Hare – A Branch of May is available as a Limited Edition hand stamped, numbered CD. Buy it here.
PART TWO of Lisa Knapp – Hunt the Hare will feature an in-depth interview with Lisa about this EP and the Month of May.