written by Maria Arroyo
John Dennis is a 28-year-old folk singer-songwriter based in Nashville, Tennessee. Dennis is excited to share his just-released LP, Mortal Flames. On this album, he explores different life experiences along with moments from history to create a seamless chronological story.
The album opens with the song, “First Light.” This song sets a softer and more intimate mood for the rest of the album. This style of music is very present in almost every song on the album.
His next song, “Board Game Money,” changes it up with upbeat energy and with heavy influences from the country genre. He is able to create a very modern sound that people can relate to while retaining his folk music roots. There is a stronger sense of rhythm in this song that works well with the delayed effects on the guitar. The downside for me is that there were some incredible female vocal moments in the background that shouldn’t have been hidden away.
“Fools Golden Boy” continues with a stronger country focus reminiscent of an old wild west movie. After reading his breakdown of all of his songs, I got a sense of a broken and tough relationship that’s significant in this particular song. I also enjoyed this song a little more because of the mix of rock, soul, and even bluegrass that is portrayed while having drastic moments of rises and falls in dynamics. This same concept is shown in his next song, “Guinevere pt. 1.”
This next song is the most interesting concept-wise because of its ties to Greek mythology. “Orpheus” is a beautiful and powerful song that represents a very dark story from this time period. The buildup in instrumentation is matched to the peak points in this story. The melody is beautiful and striking and the song structure is very strong. The build-up in the instrumentation matches the build-up in this particular Greek story. I think he does a great job of taking these very old stories and telling them in a modern way for others to connect to. His astounding songwriting and storytelling ability makes for an incredibly stimulating album.
“Another Door” gives the same type of energy as his first song which strengthened the ties between them. “Another Door” continues to showcase his honest storytelling and lyricism with lines like “If I find the courage to catch you before you leave there’d be no reason to be nervous you don’t own me anything … this don’t have to be our song but if you like the way I sing it, honey, why not sing along…” you just couldn’t help but smile. Midway through the song, we are introduced to this beautiful female vocal part that really balanced out the song. Their voices were able to play to each other strengths while complementing each other very well. His next song, “The Innocents,” also displays a strong vocal line with a very powerful message that continued to raise the bar.
“Good Good Love” is another beautiful song that felt a little more personal. The concept I get when listening to this song is loving someone so deeply and truly wanting happiness for that person even if that happiness does not come from you. “Guinevere pt.2” is also a softer, acoustic song during the first half, but there’s still a contrast between them that distinguishes them. Both parts 1 and 2 have a smooth and flowing story that you can follow from beginning to end.
The next song is the title track, which continues with his folk and indie style that also tied together a lot of the best musical moments from the other songs. I’m glad he kept this song towards the end of the album because it felt like his story came full circle. He told all of his stories and then this is like one last wrap up of it all. The strings mixed into the full band sound really added a whole other level to the song. This song takes all of the instruments and builds them up all of the ways and then brings the song back down to a softer dynamic. “Oh Beloved” finishes the album off with a beautiful and bittersweet ending.
There is a lot of history put into this album and I feel there is so much more than meets the eye. The pulls from Greek mythology and different historical moments added so much depth to the album that elevated the sophistication of his sound.