John Dennis is raw, honest, hard hitting folk for the Modern Age.
Mortal Flames press release bio:
January 31, 2019 – Nashville, TN – John Dennis has continued to establish himself as a songwriter with thought-provoking lyrics that take a profound look at life's obstacles and the beauty that stems from tragedy. Released today, his new album Mortal Flames is a personal record that touches on universal themes; through each song, Dennis searches for meaning in his childhood, the disillusionment of adolescence, the joys and sorrows of first love, learning to accept the past, healing, and eventually death—the inevitable constant that keeps the cycle going. The album has been spotlighted by a variety of outlets, including print features in ProSound News, Adelante Magazine, and The Freeburg Tribune. Glide Magazine compared Dennis’s “simple yet powerful folk songs” to the likes of Jason Isbell and Conor Oberst, while Americana Highways commented, “John Dennis has created a truly captivating, innovative sound as he tells a story from beginning to end on Mortal Flames.” Next month, Dennis will begin touring in support of the album, starting at Nashville’s Tennessee Brew Works on February 20; more dates to be announced. Mortal Flames is available today, click here to purchase.
Freeburg, IL, native John Dennis has lived a long life in his mere 27 years, but he’s certainly never hidden his story away. From the death of his girlfriend Adrienne in 2010 to his subsequent and near-fatal battle with alcoholism to his journey through recovery, Dennis has efficiently and poetically crafted his story, beliefs, and feelings into song and things are no different with his newest release Mortal Flames. Following the elemental title theme of his first two albums—Eternity’s Tree (2014) and Second Wind (2017)—Mortal Flames finds Dennis asking en lieu of telling; How does one process and heal the wounds of the past or how does man find meaning in life in the face of mortality? Mortal Flames is a concept album of sorts, chronologically following the timeline of human life from birth to death—including adolescence, first love, loss, and new beginnings—never missing a step along the way.
Last November, The Bluegrass Situation premiered the album’s lead single, “First Light,” a track that delves into Dennis’s own version of a creation myth. “I wanted to set up the ‘mortal flames’ idea by challenging myself to imagine my own poetic version of existence coming to be,” says Dennis. “The idea that resonated most with me was that of all life being a part of one great, harmonious—and sometimes cacophonous—song and dance; and its fundamental ‘meaning’ is to continually experience the wonder of itself.”
Filled with equal parts beautifully finger-picked acoustic and gritty, tremolo-drenched electric guitars, Mortal Flames is painted with detailed, thoughtful strokes, even when the bigger picture is broadly rock and roll. Take for example, “Board Game Money,” which represents childhood in the chronology of Mortal Flames. “Board Game Money” rollicks right into a stomp and clap laden ruckus, but, like all of the songs on this album, the depth of the song’s content is more than meets the eye. “At its inception, the idea for this song came from the ironic combination of feeling like I was barely scraping by financially and several late-night Monopoly game nights,” says Dennis. “But to tell the album’s story, I also wanted to have a song that conjured the wistfulness of being a kid with all of the limitlessness of imagination and possibility—hence the heavy use of mythical and fairy tale imagery.”
On the latter half of Mortal Flames, “Good Good Love” is the reverse of the coin, representing a period of learning to love again within the album’s timeline. The song revolves around the precipice of Dennis’s relationship with his current girlfriend. “We both had been hurt deeply in the past, and the idea of being faced with something that seemed genuinely good, let alone being deserving of it was frightening,” Dennis remembers. “‘Good Good Love’ is about that place. I guess what I was thinking was ‘what is the one thing everyone needs to hear?’ and that became the lyrics to the chorus.” Mortal Flames closes with “Oh Beloved,” a song which Dennis wanted to “not only signified the death of the main character but also, describe what I would want said to me before my own death.” “To me it sums up all of the things I would want to say to someone who is dying,” continues Dennis. “And the lines ‘nobody blames you for having to leave’ and ‘your failures mean nothing, it’s success just to be’ specifically aim to comfort the part of me that would feel guilty to die and to leave behind those that I love.” After the last breath of “Oh Beloved” is breathed, the ethereal whistling motif from “First Light” ties the entire story together, signaling the cycle of life to begin again. Mortal Flames ends as it begins; from dust to dust, an invitation for all, alongside John Dennis, to tell our own stories and bear our own scars.
"John Dennis--especially with 'Mortal Flames'--has found his voice and his path to step away from a crowded and talented pack" --Ear to the Ground
"Progressive, honest, and enchanting"--Slice
"A lovely, soft-spoken slice of Americana"--Charlie Doherty on "First Light"
"I was engrossed by the time I got to 'Good Good Love', an outstanding duet with Allanah Zitka which recalls the intensity and comforting tenderness of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush's 'Don't Give Up'. At over seven minutes, I might not hear a better song in 2020"--Listening Through the Lens