Andy Flannagan is a Luton-based, Irish singer-songwriter who was previously a hospital doctor but whose proudest moment as an Irishman was captaining England’s Barmy Army during the Ashes in Australia. His campaigning songwriting dragged him into the political arena, so he can often be found annoying MPs around Parliament.
Telling stories in song
He is first and foremost a story-teller, weaving hope and pain into songs that soar with beautiful, poignant melodies that betray his Irish roots. His battered Lowden guitar tells the story of fifteen years of acoustic minstrelling – at times mellow, but at times raging against all the things that break a broken world.
The combination of Flannagan’s rhythmic guitar style and the beautifully languid cello of Lucy Payne draws inevitable comparisons with Damien Rice. A “housewives’ favourite” and a “thinking man’s Ronan Keating” are labels that he can’t fully dodge! Flannagan’s edge certainly isn’t in his image, but in his poetic lyrics, which unashamedly peel back layers to leave the listener’s emotions very near the surface. He has been compared to Roddy Frame, Jackson Browne and “The Script” (if they were just one person with an acoustic guitar). He is less ginger than Ed Sheeran but certainly more Irish.
Passion for justice
There is a passion for global justice in Andy’s songs that is reflected in their earthy lyrical content. Many of them have been used by NGOs such as Tearfund, Christian Aid, Stop the Traffik, Stop Climate Chaos, and Make Poverty History. Through his work with these agencies Andy has had the privilege of travelling to some of the toughest parts of the world. Having visited Sweatshops in Bangladesh, he and his songs were part of the ‘Lift the Label’ campaign that forced retailers to sign up to the Ethical Trading Initiative. Three songs on his new album were inspired by trips to India, Egypt and Uganda respectively. He fervently believes that the lobbying of the twenty-first century will be lobbying of the heart as much as lobbying of the mind, and that music can do a thousand things that worlds alone can not.
From MPs to soldiers to slum dwellers
His audiences have ranged from MPs at Westminster to Young Offenders’ institutions, from ski-ers in the Alps, to 20,000 at Greenbelt festival, from the ‘Big Breakfast’ to Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the Labour Party Conference, from American air force bases in Germany, to the slums of Bangkok. The venues he has played have ranged from the majesty of Union Chapel or Liverpool Cathedral, to the dusty floors of South London pubs.
His songs have been used on national BBC TV and radio, and by independent UK TV broadcasters. His second album, ‘SON’ made a massive impact. Cross Rhythms called it ‘A creative triumph’ and YOUTHWORK magazine raved, ‘this is a worthy addition to the very limited canon of ‘great’ modern Christian albums, and more importantly, to the thinking person’s CD collection.’ Flannagan doesn’t wear his faith on his album sleeve, but he is honest enough to not leave it in his back pocket either.
He has made regular appearances on radio 2 and radio 5live, alongside various BBC regional stations. He has appeared on ‘The Big Breakfast’ and 4thought on Channel 4. Over the last 9 years his music has also been a staple on Christian radio stations UCB, Cross Rhythms and Premier.
He has regularly played to some huge festival audiences. For example 20,000 at the Greenbelt Festival, 8,000 at Spring Harvest and 10,000 at New Wine. There are also a long list of cathedral and town hall venues he has played.
I should report right away that this is a near perfect album – insightful and challenging lyrics, infectious melodies, warm, confident, clear and committed singing, tasteful musical accompaniment and gorgeous harmony vocals.
Cross Rhythms 10/10
Too often, the album is a place where singles wait to be released and B-sides go to die. Very rarely does an album tell a story, or offer real insight into the artist’s world. Creating a narrative on an album is a lost art. But when a record actually tells a moving and coherent story, then it can become a piece of art far more powerful than simply notes and words on a page. So it is with Andy Flannagan’s new album, Drowning in the Shallow.
SOJOURNERS MAGAZINE, USA
Andy Flannagan’s ‘Drowning in the Shallows’ is an album of rich melody and lyrical poetry. There is plenty of passion to be found here, whether in love songs like ‘This Poet’ or when questioning our ‘Fragile’ life. Flannagan’s musical power can be found in the depth of his heart and his ability to express some of the human condition with such power. The songs have an emotional (and sometimes spiritual) resonance to them that moved me. This is truly music for the soul.
This is a story telling album, which is so beautifully crafted that any songwriter would be proud of it.
Louder than the music
Each of the songs tells a story which is earthed in the real world: Fragile is written in the aftermath of the tsunami in Asia; Seven Storeys about a woman thrown to her death from a tower block; I Will Not Be Leaving is about an encounter with an abused and disabled child at orphanage which Andy supports. Rather than simple illustrations of pain going on elsewhere, of a faceless injustice miles away, these songs carry the scars of the pain he has witnessed. They convey the original meaning of the word compassion: to ‘suffer with’.
This musical expression of social and political activism. It is the soundtrack of engagement into the messiest and darkest of places.
Great music really does have a Heineken effect – refreshing the parts that books, talks and speeches never can. I think Andy Flannagan’s new album Drowning in the Shallow has this kind of effect. Its 12 songs are a rich fusion of story and melody. They inspire because Flannagan is willing to explore both the murky areas of our own souls and our hurting world and also shine a light of hope and divine love in this reality. This makes it an authentic and refreshing collection of songs.
Resistance and Renewal
“Filled with integrity each song challenges and inspires, provoking thought & discussion” Patrick Regan OBE – CEO of XLP
Flannagan’s modus operandi is to highlight injustice via a keen eye for detail and eloquent turn of phrase, his messages reaching their targets with more impact than any amount of knee-jerk sloganeering.
The music of Andy Flannagan covers a wide waterfront of political and social issues; carefully cushioned protest songs that attempt to charm listeners rather than wave placards in their faces.
Terry Staunton, RECORD COLLECTOR
All concept albums should be like Andy Flannagan‘s latest effort; soulful, truthful and embodying today by the bucketload.
Reading through his lyricism, listening to the pained expressions and hearing the emotion in his voice, Flannagan could be described as ‘doing a Bono’, albeit on a different and, perhaps intrinsically, more effective level.
there is no denying the wondrous beauty of his poignant, poetic, yet hugely pained lyrics. Flannagan is a man who cares and cares deeply and that can be perceived as his most important aspect.
The lyrics are attractive and the man’s voice is utterly beguiling….he warrants a grander audience.
just listen to the sweetness and impeccable balance of his musicality and that voice. You can tell that it is a well-honed sound and it is effortlessly beautiful.
Iain W Robertson. REVIEWEDONLINE
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.
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.
Paul Cook, Sunday Mercury (Birmingham)
Drowning in the Shallow is that rare blend of melody, vocal intensity, and authenticity of lyric that comes of living at the edge rather than manufacturing one. In this album Andy Flanagan calls us to hallow places made hollow by our materialistic culture. “Seven Stories” and “Pieces of April” are alternately sacred and searing. Andy’s voice and vision is personal, plaintive and leaves one with a sense of wonder.