Highlights: After Eliot, The Lady Is Risen, Einstein’s Idea, Bottom Of The Sea Blues
Like I’ve mentioned a hundred times already, if after listening to Johnny Flynn’s 2008 debut A Larum you still want to hear Laura Marling or, Heaven forbid, … & … (I hope not), you should take a really hard look at yourself. Somewhere along the way you may have taken a wrong turn.
A Larum was that rare case when ‘timeless’ and ‘contemporary folk’ could actually coexist in one sentence. Which is why it was really sad to see Johnny screw all that whimsical, misty-eyed brilliance in favour of the rather generic and big-sounding Been Listening in 2010. That was a huge letdown. Even that beautifully frayed, romantic-eccentric voice was hopelessly buried in the misguided attempt at losing identity.
A deep sigh of relief here: Johnny Flynn of A Larum is back. I can forgive him the slightly weaker songs, I can forgive him a couple of misfires: the main thing is that we’re back to that poetic, lost-busker-with-an-edge vibe that made him so good 5 years ago. And the drop in songwriting is in fact not too significant. True, the title track has so far failed to engage me (it’s okay – if not quite there), but a song like “The Lady Is Risen” is an absolute knockout. It would have been brilliant as a simple, swiftly fingerpicked folk tale, but that swirling organ just brings it to a whole new level. All through Country Mile, Johnny does them catchy and playful (“Fol-de-rol”) and pleasantly meandering (“Einstein’s Idea” could easily go on for another 6 minutes without me uttering one complaint). The man just feels so comfortable; and sounds that, too.
So thankfully – Johnny Flynn is back to his poetic, romantic, whimsical best. Country Mile is the true follow-up to A Larum. And the way he breaks into that fluent section towards the end of “Bottom Of The Sea Blues”? Amazing. If you are still, inexplicably, stuck with Laura Marling or, Heaven forbid, … & … (I hope not), please reconsider. And do get a copy of Johnny Flynn’s new album. It’s really bloody good.