Album Review: Johnny Flynn – Country Mile

By on Tuesday, 1st October 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Johnny Flynn Country Mile album coverAs you might glean from the title, Johnny Flynn’s third studio album ‘Country Mile’ is all about travelling, both geographically and metaphorically. The creation of the album was a journey of sorts in itself, an organic experience that Flynn called “demoing with intent” outside the confines of studio spaces and timelines. While the vernacular idea of a country mile as an undefined distance provides an air of freedom to the songs, it also implies a sense of uncertainty, which is felt in Flynn’s ambiguous song structures, even as his singing voice ventures confidently forward.

Several of the songs on this album deal with profound metaphysical ideas, but Flynn handles them in a light, airy way, never becoming too bogged down in trying to reach a conclusion. In ‘After Eliot’ (stream it below), he explores a relationship that never quite came to fruition, using snippets of evocative poetic imagery that float by without converging into a fully-realized mental picture. Similarly, ‘Einstein’s Idea’ describes the famous theory of relativity to a young child, especially the idea of attraction between objects, with the abstract but lilting lyrics, “The gap between them is nothing to us / Our eyes cut the distance as loving eyes must / From me unto you, son, from dust unto dust.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_GoakaNABs[/youtube]

Introductory single ‘The Lady Is Risen’ (single review), ponders the elusive feminine mystique, and the effect that lofty ideal might have on real relationships. Its soulful brass and backing vocals lend a spiritual air, and the lightly tripping rhythm section keeps the song from dragging even as the main vocal line remains solidly grounded. Eponymous track ‘Country Mile’ also has a gospel air, with a bit more ragged blues in the guitar part. The harmonies tend toward open fourths and fifths rather than thirds, creating a visceral sense of unresolved searching and wanderlust, especially in the chorus, “I’ve only got so near / I’ve only gone so far / I walk another country mile”.

Aside from gospel and blues, Flynn samples an interesting variety of musical styles. ‘Fol-de-rol’ references South American folk music, particularly the psychedelic Peruvian chicha, in a fashion vaguely reminiscent of George Harrison’s treatment of Indian music and the Hare Krishna faith in ‘My Sweet Lord’. The austere arrangement of ‘Gyspy Hymn’ includes piano and duetting vocals, with a divinely sheer female harmony floating over Flynn’s deep baritone. He saves his purest lyrical singing for the album’s final and perhaps most deeply reflective track, ‘Time Unremembered’.

For lovers of true folk music, ‘Country Mile’ will prove to be a treat, with its thoughtful lyrics and technical range. However, the heavily philosophical subject matter and musical intricacies may overwhelm more casual listeners who are looking for a strong hook to pull them in. Flynn’s extensive experience on the theatrical stage might allow him to make up for what these studio recordings lack in immediate emotional connection when he performs the songs live with his band, The Sussex Wit. They will embark on a headline tour of the UK in October, including a date at London’s Hackney Empire.

7/10

‘Country Mile’ is out now on Transgressive Records. The full album is available to stream online on Flynn’s official Web site. Flynn goes on tour with the Sussex Wit in October.

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3 Responses

12:03 pm
1st October 2013

New post: Album Review: Johnny Flynn @JohnnyFlynnHQ – ‘Country Mile’, out now on @transgressiveHQ: http://t.co/k9Iun11oSD

12:37 pm
1st October 2013

RT @tgtf: New post: Album Review: Johnny Flynn @JohnnyFlynnHQ – ‘Country Mile’, out now on @transgressiveHQ: http://t.co/k9Iun11oSD

[…] run of shows in the UK for April 2014, including a date at London Koko. Flynn’s latest album ‘Country Mile’ is out now on Transgressive Records; check out the animated lyric video for album track […]

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