Country Mile is the third studio album from the Transgressive Records artist. In terms of style it is in keeping with what Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit has produced in the past – lyric-driven folk that can attribute much of its appeal to Flynn’s charm. Both vocally and melodically his music has his character woven into every strand. This record, true to Flynn’s style, is dominated by the pairing of a nicely controlled acoustic guitar and voice. This works well because the guitar gives the voice space to come to take centre stage, while providing an often beautifully melodic backdrop.
Some tracks, notably Fol-De-Rol and The Lady Has Risen, include some really interesting musical ideas. The trumpet line of The Lady Has Risen particularly caught my attention and gives Flynn’s album a more experimental tone than some of his folk music peers. Fol-De-Rol includes some fantastic bass lines that I would like to have seen exposed and developed slightly more throughout the track. Flynn cites his love of South American folk music as the inspiration for this song, and that influence is evident in the changing harmonic texture throughout.
Whilst the music of Country Mile is relatively simple, the lyrical complexity adds an intense and descriptive depth to the songs, something rarely found in contemporary popular music. Flynn cites Shakespeare and W.B. Yeats as inspirations for his writing, and considers himself a poet as well as musician. This talent as a wordsmith is evident throughout the album and creates a connection with the music that grows each time you listen to it. Paying attention to the lyrics in Bottom of the Sea Blues will give you an insight into just why Johnny Flynn fans feel such an emotional attachment to his music, “While love, food, and money/Do all the trade in this town/With eyes looking hollow”. We could easily dismiss this kind of sentiment as pretentious and naive but there’s something in the conviction of Johnny Flynn’s relaxed and assured vocals that leaves you in nodding in agreement or perfectly understanding the sentiment. Perhaps he has learned a few lessons in persuasion and delivery from his days on the stage. This art of spinning a beautiful yarn is a gift few artist have, and one of Flynn’s great attributes.
When you learn that Einstein’s Idea is the story Flynn’s attempt to explain to his two year old son the theory of relativity, you begin to understand just how intense this musician is. Whilst some may seek the seemingly superficial success of fame, you get the impression Flynn is onto something bigger. That said, on my first listen through the album the intellectual sentiment sat on the back burner – it was the casual melodies and acoustic timbre that created the first impression.
It’s hard to escape the perpetual guitar riffs and melodic lines that run throughout Country Mile, and distinguishing one song from another becomes harder as the album goes on. It’s on further listening that the songs start to become more distinguishable, rather than a bland blur of folk. Definitely worth a close listening to, Country Mile is an extremely thoughtful album, a collection of songs that feel meticulously pondered and constructed with a sense of romance and freedom rather than within a commercial formula.
By Emily Webb