Johnny Flynn

Been Listening

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Johnny Flynn spends half his time working as a Shakespearean actor, and the other half recording folksy, old-world music that takes its cues from the Elizabethan era. Been Listening, the follow-up to his 2008 debut, also throws some modern influences into the mix, resulting in a combo of traditional British folk and quirky, contemporary roots music. For a genre that relies so heavily on stringed instruments -- namely fiddle, banjo, and acoustic guitar -- there’s certainly a lot of brass here, with Flynn picking up his trumpet during at least half of the songs. There’s also a healthy debt to the crossover-folk movement that swept through England during the first half of 2010, which puts Flynn in the same league as nu-folksters like Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling (who sings harmony on “The Water”), and Noah and the Whale. Been Listening is somewhat softer than those artists; rather than build up to a soaring climax, most of these songs chart a steady course instead, with melody and mood being emphasized over spectacle. Johnny Flynn knows when to give his listeners a break, though, and the one-two punch of “Howl” and “Agnes” helps rustle up some sweaty energy, which keeps the album moving in its second half.

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