Little Johnny England is an English folk-rock band which originates out of the Oxford/Banbury/Northampton section of England. Formed in 1999, the band takes its name from a traditional English Folk song. At the foundation of their music is the traditional mix of squeeze box and fiddle that is balanced by a strong rhythm section and a slide guitarist. The combination of instruments and music style creates a unique Folk Rock sound that is drawn from English musical roots. The style is amplified rock, but it is definitely English Folk with a twist of rock.
The group is made up of 5 very talented musicians. Band members include Garrett Turner on Melodeon, PJ Wright on slide guitar, Guy Fletcher on fiddle, Mat Davies on 5 string bass and Edd Frost on drums. Each of the musicians that make up this refreshing band have long standing roots in the UK Folk tradition; however, the band joke about rescuing PJ from the Rock scene. Their music is primarily made up of original compositions created by band members. Most of the instrumental pieces are penned by Garrett and Guy, while PJ contributes many of the lyrical pieces.
I have seen this band play live twice. As I sat in the front row at both venues, I was taken by the idea that these performers were entertaining themselves as much as they were entertaining the audience. To me, a band put on a superior performance when they clearly enjoy what they do. These performances were no exception. Guy was quite energetic and the smile on his face reflected the enjoyment he got from playing, Garrett’s fingers flew across the keyboard of his melodeon, PJ played and sang from his heart. Each was quick to give credit to another band mate for their contribution. There seemed to be no egos to tarnish the beauty of their music.
During their performances, Guy, Garrett and PJ take turns explaining the origins of the song they are about to perform, while also telling the story of their lives in the villages of England. Their story telling is laced with humor and sometimes sadness over the cultural losses of a era changed by progress. In the end you get a real flavor of rural England and the effects of economic progress on the culture of the old villages. But isn’t that what folk music is …. a passing down of a culture to future generations….the story telling of the people and their times through the words of the song and the melody of the music. We can never go back but we can listen and imagine what it would be like to live in another time and place.