Johnny Flynn at Barfly

The HMV “Next Big Thing Festival” ran for a week in February at various Venues across the Capital.  I went to see Johnny Flynn (without The Sussex Wit, his 4 piece band) at the Barfly, Camden.

On recordings, Johnny Flynn’s voice sounds mature beyond his (actually very young) age. His lyrics are insightful and poetic and I had expected someone much older. Possibly with a beard. But blonde, blue eyed and terribly cute, it’s refreshing to know that the folk genre is still evolving through a new generation.

His album “A Larum” features The Sussex Wit; mandolin, banjo, backing harmonies and padding drums which create a country-folk beards and checked shirt* sound. This stripped down solo performance could steer him into the singer-songwriter genre, but it would be a shame to box him there as he deserves more than that.

Performing simply with a resonator guitar, toe taps and vocals, Johnny begins what was to be a beautiful set with The Wrote and the Writ.

The gentlemanly annunciation of the lyrics utilises folk inspired sounds that feel very familiar. In a good way. Using themes and stories of religion, drunkenness and death, he mentions the sea, ‘fellows’ and the occasional footballer telling tales with poetic succinctness. You can’t help but listen to his lyrical anecdotes, which he actually forgets on a couple of occasions, but the (healthy memoried) audience give him his cue and all is forgiven. No magic lost.

Quickly following on with The Box and the inevitable Sweet William (recent EP), Brown Trout Blues stood out with real emotional truthfulness. Beautifully self deprecating, he repeats ”I could be somewhere else, I should be someone else but…” a real sombre, heartfelt mood falls over the whispering audience in a universal recognition of this boy’s blues.

This next big thing certainly deserves more ears and eyes on him this year. I can’t wait to see him again as I think with a full band, you’d get a whole different story.


Johnny Flynn – Sweet William

*He was actually wearing a checked shirt. Half way through the set, he stripped off to his t-shirt! “It feels strange stripping off in front of an audience” he leans into the mic… “I kinda like it”.



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