The musician-actor and the writer follow their inspiring lockdown debut with another buoyant fusion of English folk and big themes
By Phil Mongredien
The sunny positivity of the first collaboration between singer-songwriter-actor Johnny Flynn and nature writer Robert Macfarlane, 2021’s Lost in the Cedar Wood, felt like a genuine bright spot amid the bleakness of the pandemic. The genesis of this follow-up was far more pleasant – some of the songs came into being during walks on the South Downs (most notably Song With No Name), rather than as a result of exchanged WhatsApp messages and voice memos during lockdown – but the elements that made that first record so enjoyable remain in place: uplifting and muscular English folk stylings, courtesy of Flynn, with ancient and modern themes interwoven in these co-written lyrics.
It’s a record of two distinct halves, either side ofglorious, modern-day wassail song The Sun Also Rises. It opens in more upbeat style, despite weighty subject matter – burials, death rituals, AI – while the second half is quieter and more introspective, the pandemic-inspired Year-Long Winter evoking thaw and new growth emerging from the cold and dark. By turns celebratory and thought-provoking, The Moon Also Rises is a joy.
Trad-folk’s golden boy and one of the UK’s preeminent nature writers have produced a lockdown-borne collection of heroically upbeat musings
Of course trad-folk’s golden boy and one of the UK’s preeminent nature writers are pals. This lockdown project between Johnny Flynn and Robert Macfarlane is the Countryfile of collabs: a cosy, verdant thing that feels as restorative as a breath of fresh woodland air. And, if you listen closely enough, you might just learn something.
Though he might have spent the past few years setting out his stall as a master of both stage (a delicious, double-demin-ed turn in Sam Shepard’s True West in the West End) and screen (a period gent in Autumn de Wilde’s 2020 version of Jane Austen’s Emma and a louche shagger in STI sitcom Lovesick), Johnny Flynn will always be the bright-eyed and bushy tailed acoustic songsmith who broke through with 2008’s poetic ‘A Larum’. Preceding Mumford & Sons world-conquering sound by a full year, Flynn’s brand of folk was always a more rugged, complex beast, plugging into middle ages melancholy as much as it did the 1970s bounce of Fairport Convention.