Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit

June 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Johnny Flynn is an actor and a musician from the “West London folk scene”.  When I reviewed an independent film called, Lotus Eaters, at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, there was a particular moment that I felt compelled to mention. It was the scene when Charlie (played by Flynn) broke out his acoustic guitar during a party and serenaded “Papa Was a Rodeo” to his girlfriend, a moment that grinded the film’s abstract lively verve to a serene, but haunting halt.

This past weekend, Johnny Flynn and The Sussex Wit visited New York to perform at the Bowery Ballroom as part of his ongoing tour to support his new album, Been Listening. Members of his backing band opened the show along with Caitlin Rose-a country singer who was absolutely AMAZING!

Johnny opened with “The Box”, the first song off of his last album, A Larum-an album which is, quite simply, at the very apex of what perfection in songwriting entails. Flynn doesn’t command the stage like a superstar (from a short distance the 28 year old rather looks like a teenager with a guitar, just happy to be on stage), but as soon as he opens his mouth everything changes.  Flynn’s lower tenor is bold, rich and full of confidence.  He performed “Lost and Found” with tender sweatness, and “Brown Trout Blues” with heart-panging emotion.  The man writes songs as if honesty were a cliche that needs to be exterminated.

But Flynn’s true ace is his musicianship.  In my lifetime as both a musician and writer of musicians, there have been countless genius instrumentalists I’ve been keen to witness in person, but only a couple who truly blow me away in a rock and roll sense (Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead), being one of them.  Flynn sets down his guitar and picks up a trumpet, he sets down his trumpet and picks up a fiddle, he sets down his fiddle and picks up a banjo.  His mastery on each instrument is astounding; just about everything he does on stage is organic in some way, and all of the parts are equally complimentary.

If Steve Martin has done much to bring bluegrass/folk back into the consciousness of American musical thought, the U.K. based Johnny Flynn and The Sussex Wit, should do much to further popularize it. For the many fans who attended the Bowery Ballroom show, this was a special night that will live on in memories for many years to come.

Article by Simbarashe  Cha

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