LIVE REVIEW: John Francis Flynn, Northering @ The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle (06.02.22) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Northering are a new discovery for me, and a happy one. Their gently austere folk – guitars, a harmonium and sparing electronics and field recordings backing some lovely vocals – is reminiscent of acts like Anna & Elizabeth, Tunng and even The Unthanks (on their closing ecological disaster ‘party banger’). There were some nerves and awkwardness but nothing that detracted from a fine opening set.

It’s probably an oversimplification to talk about a post-Lankum folk world but certainly that group’s success – alongside fellow travellers like Stick In The Wheel – seems to have ushered in a small but significant shift. John Francis Flynn is Lankum-adjacent and both through his work with Skipper’s Alley and his solo album (on the small but perfectly formed River Lea label), is definitely part of this putative new wave. Live, Flynn is backed by some delicately jazzy drums and occasional electronics from Ross Chaney, and guitar and clarinet from Brendan Jenkinson, the trio bringing something more expansive and loose than the album would suggest. Flynn himself is a warm, funny folk-bear with a rich, yearning voice, a fine guitar style and “two tin whistles stuck together”. The songs – a mixture of originals and trad arrangements – tended towards the sweetly mournful, given a fresh energy by the instrumental backing. My Son Time caused an outbreak of footstamping and singing from the drunker elements of a pleasingly busy Sunday crowd and the closing, loop-augmented Shallow Brown was a catch-your-breath joy.

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