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Johnny Flynn

Not exactly a Celtic-folk artist, although his band The Sussex Wit warrant a modicum of worldly heritage, actor/poet/singer-songwriter FLYNN was actually born in Johannesburg, South Africa (14th March 1983), but raised in Hampshire, England. Now fitting in with nu-folk music’s elite batch of traditional troubadours, Johnny is one for the connoisseur, although, at the drop of a hat, a man ready to outshine any LUMINEERS and balladeers.
Inspired by poets Yeats and Shakespeare, he and his band The Sussex Wit (aka Adam Beach, Matt Edmonds, Joe Zeitlin, plus Lillie Flynn) burst on to the Brit-folk-blues scene in 2008, courtesy of A LARUM {*7}. With over a dozen cuts on board (check out `The Wrote & The Writ’, `Tickle Me Pink’ and `Shore To Shore’), FLYNN’s witty lyricism and the group’s melodious backing take centre stage. BEEN LISTENING (2010) {*6} introduced a lot of brass, whether instrumentally or attitude-wise, songs such as `Howl’ and `The Water’ (with nu-folkster LAURA MARLING in attendance) competing with new-folk-kids-on-the-block MUMFORD & SONS and NOAH AND THE WHALE.
Hot on the trail of Johnny’s A Film Score of A BAG OF HAMMERS (2012) {*5} – basically a half-hour straight-to-download or vinyl – COUNTRY MILE (2013) {*7} was the man’s first proper set in three long years. Maintaining his liaison with backers The Sussex Wit (although billed solo), FLYNN pushed the boundaries of folk further, coming across like something akin to a young RICHARD THOMPSON in his heyday. Building on the weighty opening title track, `Gypsy Hymn’ (featuring a duet with his sister Lillie), and the flighty `Tinker’s Trail’, all were worthy contenders for best contemporary folk songs of the year.
Johnny’s acting abilities had sharpened up by way of his leading role in sitcom, Lovesick, whilst another role opposite Anne Hathaway (as musician James Forrester in the feature film, Song One), were worthy of a higher profile; as was his many commitments in theatre-land and his appearance (and theme tune) to The Detectorists. Not withstanding the strength and pulling power of his 2014 concert effort, LIVE IN WASHINGTON DC Solo {*6}, FLYNN’s next bona fide studio set was the much-lauded SILLION (2017) {*8}. The album saw him reunited with bassist Adam Beach, drummer David Beauchamp, cellist Joe Zeitlin, plus sister Lillie (and co-backing singer Holly Holden), while the lead guitar was down to Dave Tattersall and electronics by Cosmo Sheldrake. The death of his father sort of coincided with the birth of his daughter; bitter-sweet events that sparked opening track, `Raising The Dead’. The great thing about Johnny was his songwriting prowess (all 11 here!); an endeavour envied by karaoke folk artists still delving and magpie-ing the vaults. Although FLYNN definitely had one foot in ye olde style, his other was stepping forward; maybe one day folks will be singing along to `Wandering Aengus’, `Heart Sunk Hank’, `Barleycorn’ et al. Meanwhile, Johnny’s thespian talents were once again unveiled via his leading role in 2017 flick, Beasts; although the limited-edition of LIVE AT THE ROUNDHOUSE (2018) {*6} arrived much too soon.
© MC Strong 2011/GFD2-wrong // rev-up MCS Nov2013-Jun2019

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