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Sweet William by Johnny Flynn

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Reviewed on 29th November 2009.


Sweet William

By Johnny Flynn

Johnny Flynn was caught in the tidal wave of the nu-folk explosion when he released 'A Larum' in the summer of last year. Flynn achieved popularity by managing to blend pop hooks and foot-stomping raucousness into traditional folk-tunes. Although 'The Box' and 'Tickle Me Pink' were the stand out pop-marketable tracks of the album, it was slower, sadder, more introspective songs like 'Brown Trout Blues' and 'All the Dogs Lying Down' that really exposed the serious depths that the young, blue eyed and blond haired, angelic Flynn was capable of.

Rather than venturing further into the pop-realms, Flynn is refreshingly happy remaining in the more underground folk periphery, as demonstrated by 'Sweet William,' a serious, intelligent and at times elegiac collection of songs that carefully balance sweet and sour. 'Trains (Rose, Mary and Time)' is exemplary of the complexity that Flynn is capable of. High intricate steel guitar strumming combines with the low mournful vocals, complimented by swooning cello and violin layers. Flynn's lyrics are never straightforward, they always seem to interweave age old questions of faith and doubt, and mystical tales of love, life and death, often adaptations of old folk ballads. There's something about the painful appeal of "trains don't stop your soul they break your heart" that just stops you dead in your tracks.

Title track, 'Sweet William' narrates the wanderings and adventures of William: his various rites-of-passage, his growth from boy to man, a tale that really reaches back to the story-telling roots of the kind of centuries-old folk culture that this new wave of traditionally inspired nu-folk is entirely indebted to. 'Sweet William' is a display of the direction that Flynn sees himself moving in: an exploration into the deep roots of the culture that he and his folksy piers, Mumford and Sons, Laura Marling, Peggy Sue, Mariner's Children etc, have so brilliantly brought into the limelight of late.



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