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Saturday, 13 October 2012

Andy Flannagan : Drowning In The Shallow Review

Visit the Houses of Parliament and odds are you’ll spot Andy Flannagan.

The former NHS hospital doctor is a political protest campaigner with a knack of getting himself heard.

No surprise, then, that he’s also a storyteller and a songwriter.

But who would have thought he’d record an album that may just be the best you’re likely to hear all year?

Drowning In The Shallow is a gorgeous set of songs drawn both from personal loss and the ills of society.

But where the likes of Billy Bragg tend to be strident, Flannagan’s musical mood is mellow, the bite hidden in the lyrics to catch you unawares.

 “There are themes of broken places, things and people, including me,” he says. “The thread that runs through the songs is inspiring people doing inspiring things in difficult places.

“You’ll hear about folks who have given of their lives in the toughest parts of this planet, from Chennai in India to an orphanage in Uganda.

“One person who truly inspired me is Mick Duncan. He gave up a life in New Zealand to go and live amongst slum dwellers in the Philippines.

“I remember something his daughter said when they came back.

“‘What’s it like being in the middle of all that poverty?’ she was asked. ‘I never saw any poverty. I just saw my friends,’ she replied.

“Could we be the generation that doesn’t have to start lots of projects to connect with and help the poor, needy and marginalised among us, but we help them simply because they’re our neighbours?”

Flannagan’s use of acoustic guitar and cello has prompted Damien Rice comparisons, but they’re wide of the mark. His gentle vocal sets him alongside
the likes of Martyn Joseph.

The title track is drop dead gorgeous, while Addictions is a wry look at a dysfunctional society where we’d rather watch TV than talk.

But it’s two tales of tragedy that inspire the highlights here.

Fragile, remembering friends killed in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, is deeply moving. And I Will Not Be Leaving, about Joseph, a baby boy left alone for days at birth, has a desperate beauty to it.

Flannagan is setting out on his ‘Invisible Tour’, playing hospices, prisons and homeless shelters for free, bringing hope where it’s in short supply.

It’s typical of the man. Like the album, just what the doctor ordered.

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