Every so often comes a new voice so unique and assured that the level of talent is never in question: Norah Jones, The Strokes and Amy Winehouse come to mind. Add to that list 25-year-old British troubadour Johnny Flynn, whose baby face masks a truly old soul. His brand of energetic, traditional folk-rock predictably brings to mind the Waterboys and Proclaimers, but intricate nods to the Grateful Dead, Jethro Tull and Bob Dylan also permeate A Larum (Old English for ``alarm'').
Flynn -- whose pleasant, just-a-bloke vocals recall Ringo Starr's deliberate, slightly stiff delivery -- makes the mishmash of influences truly his own. He's first and foremost a storyteller, but he also happens to excel on guitar, banjo, mandolin, violin, accordion and even trumpet.
On the stomping single The Box, Flynn convincingly evokes the life of a hobo with lines such as ''When you live in a box by the rails/You don't comb your hair, don't comb your tail'' and 'Sweep my mess away, leave my body, leave my bones/Leave me whole and leave my soul/Leave me nothin' I don't need at all.'' Listening to the jaunty, tavern sing-along Tickle Me Pink (``Pray for the people inside your head/For they won't be there when you're dead''), you half expect to see sailors merrily brawling. The stoned, slow-as-molasses folk of Brown Trout Blues is lifted by drawling country harmonies and muted trumpets -- it sounds like a spontaneous jam on a front porch.
But the loveliest moments are found in Shore To Shore, with Eleanor Rigby cello accents adding mournful weight to Flynn's confession: ``There lies a lady -- she's gone, she's gone/She'll be a fine lady before too long/But I hit her head and she finished her walking/She shouldn't be dead/She was too busy talking.''
Here's hoping newcomer Flynn has another decade of stories to tell.
Rating: 3 1/2 stars
Pod Picks: The Box, Tickle Me Pink, Shore To Shore.