If you’re a fan of folk and acoustic music, you won’t find this to be the huge breath of fresh air that it has been widely received as. After all, Lightspeed Champion’s folk-lite debut album has broken the fall of Johnny Flynn into relatively un-chartered terrain for Flynn and backing band The Sussex Wit. For when words like ‘acoustic’ or ‘singer-songwriter’ are going to be bandied about, that doesn’t mean comparisons with Newton Faulkner or Jack Johnson are anywhere near accurate. Think more along the lines of Sufjan Stevens or Jon Brion vocals, and we’re on the same wavelength.
Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit’s banjos, ukuleles and harmonicas constitute knee-slappingly familiar folk territory, but they’re consistent, and the four minute plus songs are tied up neatly and satisfyingly. ‘The Wrote and the Wit’ and ‘Eyeless in Holloway’ are most characteristically American, with surprisingly beautiful results. The lyrics are always poetic and abstract, and there are no fake accents either. ‘Hong Kong Cemetery’ sounds positively Balkan influenced. It is hard not to draw comparisons to Zach Condon’s critically acclaimed Eastern European influenced gypsy troupe, the brass and accordion styled ‘Beirut’. ‘Wayne Rooney’ is a prettier song than images conjured up by it’s name first suggest, and ‘All the Dogs are Lying Down’ comes to a toe tapping, frantic finale.
There are an odd couple of tracks which aren’t as outstanding, but as a collection this is an impressive and enchanting debut album. ‘A Larum’ isn’t the first of its kind; the new-folk movement in America simply seems to have caught on across the pond. Johnny Flynn has arrived unexpectedly. The album is a brooding but melodious debut, which never strays from its authentic folk and blues roots.
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