The John Flanagan Trio - made up of award winning songwriter, John Flanagan, charismatic double bass player Liz Frencham and virtuoso guitar and mandolin picker Daniel Watkins - have released their latest album Honest Man.
With thoughtful arrangements and warm vocal harmonies, Flanagan says the album: “is definitely my most upbeat release so far, it captures the energy of the live band. We recorded ‘live’ with all the musicians playing together in the same room and you can hear that interaction and spontaneity in the final product.”
The engaging, moving and at times humorous lyrics on Honest Man zoom from local to universal themes: a cottage in Launceston, a trip to Uluru, driving Paul Kelly in St Kilda, a conscientious objector in Pascoe Vale 1968, awkward new love, lingering lost love, our changing environment, kindling young minds. While the lyrics are speckled with Australiana, the musical arrangements bring a contemporary edge to Americana traditions with bluegrass, country, blues and jazzy influences all adding colour to the band’s folky palette.
The first single from the album ‘Beauty On The Bottom’ was met with great reception when the Trio released the album taster in mid-2017, with rollicking fiddle follow-up 'Something To Complain About' released 30 March this year. Bluesy banjo track ‘Free John Zarb’ tells the story of Melbournian John Zarb who was a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War. He was imprisoned in 1968 and he became a focal point for opponents of the war in Australia. John Flanagan took part in a theme concert ‘Going Back’ alongside songwriters Jeff Lang, Mick Thomas and Tracey McNeil who were asked to look through the Moreland city archives and write a song based on local history. Flanagan researched the story of Zarb and was surprised that he had no knowledge of these events that were such a significant part of Australian history.
'The Last of The Casette Men' was inspired by a call Flanagan received around a decade ago from a friend, asking if he could do her a favour and drive Paul Kelly from St Kilda to the Paris Cat in Melbourne. "I had been writing songs and playing in a band although I hadn’t yet gone out on my own as a singer-songwriter," says Flanagan. "It was very inspiring chatting to Paul for that brief car trip. After reading How to Make Gravy and listening to the full A to Z recordings, I finally had a few ideas to kick off writing this song. My respect for Paul as one of the great Australian songwriters and lyricists is clear in the lyrics of this song."
Honest Man was recorded in Feb 2017 over 4 days at Dog & Bear studio in the beautiful town of Trentham in regional Victoria. They worked with engineer Steve Vella while co-producer/mixing engineer Erick Jaskowiak (The Waifs, Colin Hay, The Mae Trio, Alison Krauss) oversaw the project from Seattle. The trio were joined in the studio by special guest musicians Justin Olsson on drums (LANKS, Oh Pep!, The Little Stevies), Pete Fidler on dobro/lap steel, and Kat Mear on fiddle.
The Trio have a big year ahead with spots at Yackandandah and the National Folk Festival followed by their Honest Man album tour. The expansive tour will incorporate cities and regional shows across VIC, NSW, ACT, QLD and SA.
National tour dates
Thu 03 May | The Toff In Town | Melbourne, VIC (double album launch with Lucy Wise)
Sat 12 May | The Barn | Neales Flat, SA
Sun 13 May | The Wheatsheaf Hotel | Adelaide, SA
Wed 23 May | Ararat Live | Ararat, VIC
Wed 30 May | Yinnar Hotel | Yinnar, VIC
Sat 16 June | Old Church On The Hill | Bendigo, VIC
Sun 17 June | Lost Ones Gallery | Ballarat, VIC
Wed 27 June | Smith’s Alternative | Canberra, VIC
Thu 28 June | Django Bar | Sydney, VIC
Sat 30 June | Megan Hall | Dorrigo, VIC
Thu 05 July | The Junk Bar | Brisbane, QLD
Fri 06 July | Pelican Playhouse | Grafton, NSW
Sat 07 July | Wauchope Arts | Wauchope, NSW
Sun 08 July | The Junkyard | Maitland, NSW
+ Further dates to be announced. Tickets and details from www.johnflanagan.net
About the trio: Award winning songwriter, John Flanagan has been compared to James Taylor and Paul Kelly for his warm vocal delivery and engaging storytelling; Liz Frencham has a remarkable stage presence and a creativity in her double bass playing which has seen her play alongside various artists of international renown. Dan Watkins is recognised as one of the finest young bluegrass pickers in the country on guitar and mandolin and has toured extensively around Australia and the US.
Together they combine 60s & 70s folk singer-songwriter influences with a contemporary Americana/bluegrass sound. With tight arrangements and soaring 3-part harmonies they deliver a dynamic and energetic live show that can vary from humorous and uplifting to moving and thoughtful.
“one of Australia’s finest lyricists” - Timber and Steel
“One of the country’s hardest working musicians” - Paul Gough, The Inside Sleeve, ABC Radio National