shelleyhanveywriter

'Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences'

Johnny Flynn, ‘Been Listening’ – album review

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You know that feeling that you get when you realise you’re in exactly the right place, at exactly the right time and even if given the chance; you wouldn’t change one single moment of it? I had that very feeling when  I visited the Cambridge Folk Festival for the first time this year…it happened, whilst I was watching Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit perform.

Being a relative newcomer to the expansive genre of folk music, I had done some research on a selection of the artists performing and made a most delightful discovery in the form of Flynn’s debut album ‘A Larum.’ The 14-track folk-rock recording was released in 2008 and features such superbly crafted tunes as ‘The Box’, ‘The Wrote And The Writ’, ‘Tickle Me Pink’,Shore to Shore’ and ‘Eyeless in Holloway.’ Unlike perhaps some of his current nu-folk contemporaries, Flynn could never be categorised as one-dimensional; with his debut album swaying sweetly in the summer Sussex breeze between ‘pure folk’, country, blues and rock. I like a bit of diversity on a record; which makes it all the more pleasing to hear on a daily basis and not at all repetitive. I do tend to get a bit obsessive with new discoveries; I will find an album that I really like and literally listen to it every day, from start to finish, till I’ve learnt every lyric, every key change, every hidden moral and then I’ll rest for a while. Then the process starts over. I am having just that love affair at the moment with Flynn’s second album ‘Been Listening.’

The album doesn’t care for easing you in gently, preferring to eyeball you with the brass-laden, calypso opening of ‘Kentucky Pill’, watching you shift  suspiciously in your seat, eyes darting and rising as you quickly reach the conclusion that there’s no point fighting it; you’re hooked and there’s no going back. ‘Lost And Found’ follows, allowing the listener to regain their composure with its soothing melody and emotive, maritime-referenced ode to the macabre. It would be fair to say that Flynn’s first album touched more than a little upon the subjects of death and funerals; but strangely enough, never in a morose, depressing sort of way. I am of the belief, to reference one of Flynn’s peers and another favourite wordsmith of mine; Charlie Fink (Noah and the Whale) that ‘…you don’t know how it feels to be alive. Until you know how it feels to die’ (‘Shape Of My Heart’).

I really enjoy the Take-Away Shows on Blogotheque; on which Flynn appears, performing three tracks from his debut album. The videos are shot on location in Buenos Aires and are a perfect introduction to the genius and vision of Vincent Moon. I’d definitely recommend a viewing at the link below:

http://www.blogotheque.net/Johnny-Flynn,4703

Next up is Flynn’s account of loves; past, present and future, throughout the seasons in the evergreen‘Churlish May.’ The album title track, ‘Been Listening’ follows, with some soulful electric-stringed inflections to reel you in, then Flynn’s deep and dark dulcet tones to keep you enthralled throughout. I am in a most enjoyable- albeit fantasy- position at the present moment in time, as I cannot decide which voice alone I would most prefer to hear for the rest of my life; that of Charlie Fink or that of Johnny Flynn…I may have to do some kind of practical experiment in the very near future, so I’ll let you know how I get on with that one. Restraining order permitting, of course.

The track that I remember most vividly from Cambridge would have to be ‘Barnacled Warship’, which is the next track on the album. Flynn showcased his musicality with this number to breathtaking reception, alternating between violin and acoustic guitar with empassioned ease, as he took festival-goers on a trip across the high seas fighting the waves, the enemy and the inner workings of his own mind. A duet, entitled ‘The Water’ with critics-favourite Laura Marling is another album highlight. Marling’s honeyed tones complement Flynn’s perfectly in this dedication to that most pure and essential, yet at times deadly substance; This track has just been confirmed as Flynn’s next single release, on November 1st, 2010.

I am reviewing Mumford and Sons this coming weekend in Manchester, for which Flynn has been confirmed as support. I can hardly contain my excitement at seeing both of these tremendous acts in one billing and have heard great things about Mumford’s live performance prowess. Should be a brilliant show, of which I will of course be reporting back in full on here.

‘Howl’ should be a great track to hear performed live, given the instrumentation and vocal skills on display. Listening to Flynn’s work, it is hard to come to terms with the fact that there are artists out there at the moment, enjoying huge success on an international scale, who could never hope to possess such talent as a lyricist, let alone be musically proficient on such a varied scale from brass to strings and beyond. To be fair though, I am pretty sure that international acclaim and everything that goes with it, however nice that would be, is not Flynn’s primary motivation. I know him you see; we’re like that (index and middle finger crossed…)

‘Amazon Love’ is simply beautiful; Flynn’s sister Lillie sings on this piano and cello-led ballad about that emotion which we all feel and all wish we sometimes didn’t. ‘The Prizefighter And The Heiress’ concludes the album with an initially gentle and sauntering take on the differences between two star-crossed lovers, which steadily rides in to a country-fused western number; a fitting note on which to close an album peppered with diverse influences and dramatic displays of musical wizardry.

Flynn embarks on a solo tour of the UK in December, 2010:

Saturday 4th – O2 Academy, Birmingham

Sunday 5th – Academy, Manchester

Tuesday 7th – The Liquidroom, Edinburgh

Thursday 9th – The Trinity Centre, Bristol

Friday 10th – O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, London

Saturday 11th – St Georges Church, Brighton

Sunday 12th – Phoenix Arts Centre, Exeter

I would highly recommend paying him a visit at one of these shows. Tickets can be purchased from www.seetickets.com or via the links below:

www.johnny-flynn.com

www.myspace.com/johnnyflynn

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2 Responses

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  1. Great review! I love Johnny Flynn and agree, he is such a great lyricist- a lot better than a lot of other musicians which are part of the folk scene.

    vanessa

    October 4, 2010 at 7:06 am

    • I couldn’t agree more Vanessa! I saw him on Saturday supporting Mumford and Sons and he stole the show for me. He has such stage presence, even though he doesn’t say that much! I am ever so slightly in awe of him! 🙂

      shelleyhanveywriter

      October 4, 2010 at 9:19 am


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