Promoting his new album Country Mile, Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit return to Manchester after a two year interlude from, where he has been delving into the delights of theatre. Support was provided by the delectable Marika Hackman and Cosmo Sheldrake.

Manchester’s Club Academy; that drab, slimy host, the Uncle who is all too inviting yet  insists on wearing his favourite – and sick stained –  jumper.  Arriving at the gig I glanced at the running order, did a double take,  let out a high pitch scream (and “a bit” of wee) supporting Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit was Cosmo Sheldrake. There’s a good chance you may not have stumbled across this musical maestro and you’ll be forgiven – this time. Sheldrake performs a rich mix of A-capella and multi-layered vocal tracks using voice loops. Alongside this he has an alternate style where he creates tracks by eliciting sounds from the world around; “some lintel being broken up a hill in Wales.” He then disseminates the sounds into their constituent parts and like the painter to his paints reconstructs something entirely new. His tunes are intelligent in design; funky rhythms and vibrant electro-melodies. It is an apt prelude.

Folk gigs are usually a relaxed affair and this gig affirms the status quo. Flynn, who studied music from a young age is an eminent figure within the English folk scene. The performance is lively but It’s good to see that the band have developed more of an ability to undertake dialogue with the crowd, which included a really bad cheesy joke; involving a horse and a mask – I know,  I was outraged too. Turning his hands to a medley of instruments Flynn quickly redeems himself and displays all the musical dexterity he is known for, Mid-way through a song he even whips out his trumpet – classic move – and performs a signature solo. Flynn’s capacity as a musician and as a word-smith validates all expectations. Word-smiths open new dimensions to their audience. Flynn bends sentences and opens metaphors that collude with the music to produce rich British folk. The band were joined on-stage by Flynn’s sister, who performed a duet with Flynn on the melancholic and serene song ‘The River.’

In writing this, I did the rounds of other reviews of previous gigs and there didn’t seem to be any mention of the swooning of the masses but I feel it should be mentioned. The man is butch; like a Norwegian craftsman from the forest. The swoon was a mix of woman, beards and a distinct lack of ale. And that’s where you leave, not writing a quasi-edgy superfluous trite.


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