Johnny Flynn, the songwriter-in-chief and frontman of folk-rock band Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit is considered by friend and contemporary Marcus Mumford to be his favourite song writer. Listening to their three past albums, A Larum (2008), Been Listening (2010) and Country Mile (2013), it’s not hard to see why.
Unfortunately, perhaps as folk music’s response to Donald Glover, Flynn has turned his hand to a variety of other pursuits alongside his music, particularly acting, he starred most recently in the warmly received Netflix and Channel 4 Show Lovesick and has also appeared opposite Anne Hathaway in Song One. He is also set to appear as a young Albert Einstein alongside Geoffrey Rush in Genius which will air in Spring 2017.
Fortunately for folk music fans, Flynn is back with a new single “Raising the Dead”, and it’s one of his best tracks to date. Released ahead of a new album, Sillion, to be released on March 24, and a tour of the UK also in March, “Raising the Dead” features Johnny Flynn’s typical melding of Americana and folk music, to create a sound that has more bite than traditional folk music, but maintains the relaxed and peaceful ambiance of the latter.
The song’s intro has an eerie quality, achieved largely through the effective use of chimes, which transitions smoothly into the guitar that accompanies the first verse. Flynn has also mastered the art of creating powerful choruses, that encourage the listener to sing along, and “Raising the Dead” is no exception.
Flynn launches into the chorus with an “ah oh / raising the dead” in an impressive vocal performance, which also has a slightly haunting quality. Despite this, Flynn’s vocals retain a relaxed delivery, his singing doesn’t sound forced, and instead has the air of a man who just enjoys singing and testing his voice rather than one trying to hit all the right notes, which makes listening that much more pleasant.
The key to Flynn’s qualities as a songwriter however are arguably his lyrics. Flynn, along with his music, is a keen poet, and he cites W.B. Yeats and Shakespeare as influences on his music, but for “Raising the Dead”, Flynn has turned to more autobiographical sources for inspiration.
The song’s title refers both to the death of his father when he was 18, and also to the birth of his daughter, and what Flynn felt was a degree of the cyclicality of life by seeing aspects of his father in his daughter. Flynn’s lyrics lend vividness to his song, encouraging the listener to imagine Flynn Senior through the eyes of his son, as well as capturing the combination of love and grief one feels when confronted by the loss of those close to them.
Overall, “Raising the Dead” is an atmospheric release from Johnny Flynn maintaining his trademark of combining accomplished instrumentation that combines traditional folk influences and Americana, and Flynn’s pleasant voice and sharp lyrics, which will serve to foster excitement for the release of Sillion on March 24. “Raising the Dead” is available for purchase and Sillion for pre-order here.
Words by James Smith