British singer-songwriter Johnny Flynn does not storm back into the music world with his latest and third album release, but instead ambles towards us slowly down a country road, stopping to pick buttercups on his way. Shadowed by the unstoppable posh-boy folk giants that are Mumford and Sons, Flynn has petered on the brink of becoming a breakthrough artist for years now. He’s toured with aforementioned giants and popular folk-singer Laura Marling, but has never quite hit that hallowed top forty spot the others have grasped, and unfortunately it might still be out of his reach.
A Shakespearean actor by day, Flynn clearly expresses his these influences by drawing upon archaic language to create pastoral imagery throughout Country Mile, enough to make even Hardy blush. Flynn’s idyllic lyricism in ‘Bottom of the Sea Blues’ (“My soul is in the trees / It’s in the sap that fills the wood”) conjures imagery of apple orchards and meadows. When twinned with the old fashioned ‘folky’ sound of tracks such as ‘Gypsy Hymn’, it does force you to ask how much of Flynn’s twee-country twang is overtly self-aware.
The title track ‘Country Mile’ is undoubtedly a strong track of rousing guitar riffs and a catchy percussive beat, which strays into the folk-rock genre. Acoustic sounds are replaced by electric and the track ends in a crescendo finish of crashing cymbals and strong harmonies. It is Flynn’s ballads however, that show his true strengths. His baritone voice is stretched in ‘Einstein’s Idea’ as he punctures his rough, throaty crooning with flickers of falsetto which creates a gorgeous sound. Deep in expression and rich in tone, the listener is enticed by Flynn to absorb the honesty of his lyrics as he sings of star gazing with his lover.
‘The Lady is Risen’ and ‘Fol-de-Rol’ are certainly great songs with catchy hooks and strumming guitars. Flynn’s quaint lyricism is a perfect accompaniment to the oncoming autumn months and there is no denying that what we have been presented with is another reassuringly decent Johnny Flynn album. Country Mile is enjoyable and cohesive, but some off-piste harmonies and contrived lyrics (“The bull looks a meanie but he’s on your side”) mean that Flynn’s transgressive style never seems to progress any further forward than his previous albums, and we are left with yet another album of ‘nice sounding folk songs by Johnny Flynn’.By Tessa Pullen