Now prior to listening to this new release, I had only briefly stumbled across Johnny Flynn’s duet The Water with Laura Marling and there was some uncertainty as to what to expect from Country Mile. As a collective, Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit put forward a captivating record with its origins firmly rooted in traditional folk music.
Instantly, the title track Country Mile paints a quite remarkable picture of a boundless realm of travelling, rolling hills and maybe even tractors – whatever it may be, it is quite clear from the outset that there are recurring themes engrained in this record which draw on the listener’s imagination, particularly on the first listen. The captivating horns in Lady Is Risen is an ideal illustration of this; it is difficult to pinpoint the exact source of brilliance attached to this track but one thing that is absolute is that in the first few seconds you’re hit with an added sense of majesty.
The attachment to the country and romanticism integrated into this record could be attributed to Flynn’s upbringing but the band have an amazing presence on this album; they bring with them an overwhelming sense of community and gathering which is a vital component in the overall unrefined feel of Country Mile. The discovery that the album was put together without a production crew seems unusual but with stripping back enforces a ‘back to basics’ principle.
Country Mile is fundamentally a classic English folk record without flamboyance. It is a ‘grower’ in the sense that the first listen might not be the best for uncovering outstanding moments. However, it is far from simple: aspects of Johnny Flynn’s capability as an experienced writer come into play and he could be likened to a modern day bard with a voice that could effortlessly latch on to folk tales and fables.