Johnny Flynn meant nothing to me until I clicked an Amazon review of his last album "A Larum" to read various reviews from what appear to be normally sane people making humongous claims for this man's talent not least of all that he is "better than Nick Drake". This a big statement indeed and one which remains a tad premature if truth be told, since while Flynn is good, he is not that good. Indeed the comparision is an odd one since Flynn owes as much to great musicians like Richard Thompson and deeper folk tradition.
This is evident again on his new album "Been Listening" where Flynn does ooze promise by the bucket load and with his band the Sussex Wit he forms part of that movement which travels on the vehicle of "Nu Folk" which is taking British music by storm. The presence of Laura Marling one of the vanguard of this genre on this album who has regularly performed with Flynn demonstrates the mutual respect amongst its leading lights and we can but marvel at the collective weight of young talent emerging in this tightly knit field of minstrels.
Another Amazon reviewer from across the pond Mr Peter Reeve ably described Flynn as "very much part of the current British Folk scene, albeit South African by birth, Flynn is a 25-year old actor, poet and songwriter. His voice is expressive rather than melodic. He may not quite hit the notes, but he feels them" A splendid description and one which holds equally true on Johnny Flynn's new double album "Been listening" a very fine and solid album "sardine packed" with great songs and fascinating demo's.
What are the highlights? Well the opener "Kentucky Pill" is a joyous confection of horns and what sounds like on occasions a miniature Jamaican steel drum band(?). It is fine start and is followed swiftly by one of the outstanding pinnacles of the album which is "Churlish May" a hybrid mixture of folk and pop which has brilliant backing by the band and a dry as dust vocal by Flynn which at the same time could not be bettered by any of his contemporaries. "The Water" has the word centrepiece pasted all over it and is a duet with Laura Marling. It is a tender and old fashioned acoustic ballad which sounds utterly timeless. "Amazon love" is a traditional folk lament which I have no doubt should be dedicated to our favourite web site, while "Agnes" is an uptempo and rocking folk anthem with real echoes of Richard Thompson. Finally the "Prizefighter and the heiress" will see grown men turn to one side in fear of mockery as a tear gently rolls down their cheek, until it picks up half way through into a more hard edged beast with a feel of the "old West" about it. True, there are some songs on here which I can only describe as "samey" and I am not sure yet if any of these quite match "Brown trout blues" and "The Box" from "A Larum", but only repeated listens will fully answer this question and I am fully up for that! Overall "Been listening" does mark a real progression and on the songs highlighted in this review and others across the LP it is a hugely confident sophomore album from Flynn and co. More than this it highlights an artist who grows in stature by the minute and someone who we should be listening to with an intensity.