Vermilion Sands

posted: 2023-12-31 Look Over the Wall, See the Sky John Francis Flynn

released: 2023-11-10
on label: River Lea
with some: DroneIndie FolkNeofolk
more reviews: The Guardian

A traditional singer and stalwart of Dublin’s pub scene, John Francis Flynn released his 2021 debut, I Would Not Live Always, to something like critical delirium. Its vision was jarring, its balladry set to arrangements entwining guitar, fiddle and the like with synth and tape loops, displacing old songs to new times while keeping Flynn’s rich, sonorous vocals at its heart. On this second album he again produces in tandem with Brendan Jenkinson, and the multi-instrumental pair push boundaries unsparingly. Songs emerge from walls of growling guitars and doomy drones and disappear into distorted electronica.

“Within a Mile of Dublin”, a popular reel, acquires industrial muscle shot through with penny whistle. “Mole in the Ground”, an absurdist song recorded in the 1920s (plundered by Dylan), becomes a murky tirade. “While Kitty”, best known from the Pogues, retains a trance-like serenity, “Willie Crotty”, an 18th-century tale of a Waterford outlaw, is held prisoner by a storm of white noise. A pair of Ewan MacColl numbers get simpler treatment and emerge strongest. “The Lag Song” captures the harrowing compression of prison time, while “Dirty Old Town” defies its over-familiarity with a delicate, romantic vocal and a subtle brassy backing. An erratic set with an admirably bold vision.