It’s been four long years since folksy singer-songwriter Johnny Flynn last released an album. He’s not been mysteriously idling his time away à la Frank Ocean since 2013’s ‘Country Mile’, though. Instead, he’s been plonking his fingers in a lot of pies. There’ve been TV roles (he plays lead character Dylan in the ace ‘Lovesick’), scores (for BBC series ‘Detectorists’ and the Globe Theatre’s ‘As You Like It’) and theatre (appearing alongside David Morrissey in ‘Hangmen’).
It was during that last project that Johnny’s fourth album ‘Sillion’ was conceived. In the play, the musician played a psychopath, but there’s only really one hint of iniquity on this record. ‘Barleycorn’, a take on a traditional English folk song, might sound joyful at first, but listen closely and there are lines like “they would murder Sir John”. After that, his “ahhs” and “hallelujahs” take on a slightly maniacal edge.
The rest of Johnny’s return is mostly concerned with family and love of differing kinds, with life and connecting with nature. ‘Heart Sunk Hank’, the record’s highlight, has him exploring his and his wife’s different approaches to love and being apart. Recorded on a Voice-o-Graph - a recording booth from the 1940s where users have two minutes to make a record - its finish veers from crackly and ultra lo-fi to polished and HD, a move that is both deliciously retro and amplifies the distance he has to travel to get back to his beloved.
‘Raising The Dead’ is a hopeful and tender ode to finding attributes of his late father in his newborn daughter. ‘Wandering Aengus’, meanwhile, is a Yeats-inspired piece of trumpet-covered beauty that sums up the record perfectly - peaceful, lush and well worth the wait.