Back to Our Roots: Lisa Hannigan Is One of the Innovative Artists Taking Folk Music into the 21st Century

By Cheal, David | New Statesman (1996), February 2, 2009 | Go to article overview

Back to Our Roots: Lisa Hannigan Is One of the Innovative Artists Taking Folk Music into the 21st Century


Cheal, David, New Statesman (1996)


At some tantalisingly unspecified point later this year, Lisa Hannigan's first solo album, Sea Sew, will finally get a UK release--it came out months ago in Ireland, her home turf. Hannigan, a singer and songwriter best known for her vocals on Damien Rice's two albums 0 and 9, is a bright new voice in popular music. Sea Sew is full of memorable melodies and richly textured arrangements, while her singing ranges from pure girlish sweetness to something altogether darker. Her performances alongside Rice, both on record and live, won her a considerable fan base: her husky timbre became more than backing vocals, often taking the lead on Rice's controlled explosions of emotion.

They were a team from the early days of Rice's career, bumping into each other in a bar in Dublin, where Hannigan, who at school had ambitions to become an opera singer, was studying art history at Trinity College. She told Rice she was a singer, so he went to hear her in a classical music competition and hired her for his band. They lasted seven years together, and then one night a couple of years ago they were about to go on stage in Munich when Rice told her abruptly that he would no longer be needing her services. A businesslike announcement was issued saying that their "professional relationship has run its creative course" - and that was that.

Since then, Hannigan has been working on her solo career, and Sea Sew is the result. It's lighter, breezier, more whimsical than her material with Rice, though it does have its melancholy moments. It's an album that has been categorised within the the broad spectrum of music that now goes under the heading of "folk". The instrumentation is almost entirely acoustic--double bass, drums, acoustic guitars, banjo, fiddle, cello, glockenspiel, harmonium--while her voice has a natural, unforced quality.

And yet there's almost nothing here, apart from the lilt of her accent, to suggest that she is an Irish folk singer; though there are fiddles and a banjo, this is a million miles from the boisterous revelry of The Dubliners, let alone The Pogues. Nor do her songs fit in with the folk tradition of narrative songwriting, being more personal meditations on love and relationships, with the sea as a recurring theme.

So what is it about her music that makes it folk? Chiefly its acoustic nature; the sounds you hear are natural, earthy, genuine--crucial qualities in the world of folk, which values authenticity over artifice. The guitar, the banjo, the strings and the harmonium mesh together in a way that's not folksy, but certainly folky. This handcrafted flavour extends to the sleeve art, which was knitted and sewn by Hannigan herself. And amid the self-penned tunes, there's a version of "Courting Blues", a song written by the veteran Scottish folkie Bert Jansch, as if to say: this is where I'm coming from.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

As a folk singer, Hannigan is in good company, because this year folk music is a big sound. This month's BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, presented by Mike Harding, a veteran of folk's Seventies boom time, will reward artists singing and playing in a dizzying spectrum of styles.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Back to Our Roots: Lisa Hannigan Is One of the Innovative Artists Taking Folk Music into the 21st Century
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.