SONG PREMIERE: John Dennis Explores Courtship with Sparse Folk Duet “Good Good Love”

John Dennis is a 27 year old Freeburg, IL native and Nashville-based recording artist who will be releasing his third full length album, Mortal Flames, on January 31, 2020. This record marks the newest installment in a series of elemental themed albums released with producer Bryan Clark and Rainfeather Records. It is preceded by Eternity’s Tree (2014) and Second Wind (2017).

Dennis has lived a lot of life in just 27 years, and in characteristically candid fashion, Mortal Flames represents a triumphant step forward towards even greater creative and personal expression. Where his previous two records dealt heavily in the themes of grief following the death of his girlfriend Adrienne in 2010, his subsequent near fatal struggle with alcoholism, and the journey to recovery—a path he is grateful to still be on—Mortal Flames wrestles with some of life’s biggest questions: how does man find meaning in life in the face of his own mortality and the mortality of those he loves? How does one process and heal from the wounds of the past—including those passed down to him in the chain of hurt begetting hurt? Is man really a victim to a cruel and unyielding fate, or is it merely his own stubborn expectations for how his life is supposed to play out that prevent him from seeing the peace and possibility that lies just before him?

Dennis reaches for his own answers to these questions in ways that are, at once, deeply personal and universal. Mortal Flames, an idea based on the mythological image of our lives being measured by the burning down of candles, earns the distinction of a concept record in that it chronologically follows the narrative of a life’s search for meaning; it starts with Dennis’s own version of a creation myth and travels through: the wistfulness of childhood, the disillusionment of adolescence, first love and the death of it, the discovery of new love and life, the acceptance and healing of the past, and ultimately death and the passing of the mortal flame so that the story can begin again. As an avid fan of myth and the writings of Joseph Campbell, John’s record is brimming with archetypal imagery and nods, but is equally full of references to his own story and a courageous transparency in bearing his own scars.

Today Glide is excited to offer an exclusive premiere of “Good Good Love,” a duet performed with his current girlfriend of two years Allanah “Al” Zitka—who is the real life inspiration for the second half of the record. The acoustically picked song feels heartfelt and confessional, with a sense of lived-in melancholy accentuating Dennis’s vocals. This is contrasted with Zitka’s vocals, which seem to add a ray of optimistic sunshine to the song. The two harmonize beautifully, offering a sense of vulnerability and empowerment simultaneously. The sparse instrumentation and lyricism brings to mind the quieter work of Jason Isbell and Conor Oberst, with Dennis showcasing his penchant for crafting simple yet powerful folk songs.  

Dennis describes the story behind the song:

“After a four month courtship in which my current girlfriend, Al, and I danced around a relationship, and in which all of the trust and vulnerability issues we were each bringing to the table reared their fearful heads, I found myself at the precipice of giving up on us being together after all. We had become great friends, and we had agreed to take at it our own pace, but every romantic step forward usually signaled a panicked glance at the door (metaphorically speaking). 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. ‘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. The verses essentially tell the actual story of us almost passing up something good out of fear of the past repeating itself, and I had come to the point where, as much as I hated it, I could accept that. She had become my best friend, and I cared so deeply for her and what she was dealing with, that I really just wanted her to know that she deserved all the love and happiness this world could offer, whether I got to be the one to be with her or not, and in a way, I decided I wanted to tell myself that too—as well as everyone else I knew who carried around that deep down feeling of being unlovable. It seems there’s a whole lot of us; but I’m saying: we all are worthy of love. No matter what. Interestingly, I left the bridge open ended (‘I won’t tell you how it ends, I’ll let you choose’), because, quite literally, I didn’t know what would happen with Al and I in that moment, and as I stood in line to sign up for Cafe Coco’s open mic, I needed an ending so that I could perform it, and that’s what came out. It’s worth mentioning, that the song started as one I did on my own, and after Al and I did end up dating not too long after, she asked if she could sing it with me just for fun. At that point, the song took on a totally new dimension, and has become our song to perform together ever since. It just felt so magical as a solo acoustic duet, that we decided to abandon the full band track we started with for the record and just play it live in studio. For the ambient background noise, we fortuitously caught the sound of a plane that happened to be going by over head—maybe there’s some symbolism in that too.”


Mortal Flames is out January 31 on Rainfeather Records

Photo credit: Kristin Indorato

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