What do you get when you combine one of the finest contemporary songwriters in the country with one of Irish music’s best kept secrets?
You get In The Game, the astonishing collaborative album between Cork singer-songwriter Mick Flannery, and Susan O’Neill (King Kong Company, Propeller Palms ), no mean vocalist and songwriter herself.
By turns funny, heartbreaking, bitter, and above all, deeply poignant, In The Game charts the long disintegration of a relationship, as a man and a woman fall out of love and into acrimony.
The rapport between the artists is a key to why this album is something special, and what gives it heart and depth.
Both Mick and Susan inhabit the characters fully, be it the caustic exchanges of ‘Are We Free’ (“Now if I had said that/You’d be shouting down the wall/But that point’s forbidden/If it’s something you recall” ); the remorse of the fight in ‘Lonely Wins’ (“Things said in one voice/Sound hateful in another/Are you alright?” ); and the point of no return, a clear break for one, and lasting regret for the other in ‘Ghosts’ (“When I don’t feel much together/When I don’t feel I can cry/Oh that’s when I miss you most” ). That track also features an evocative falsetto by Mick - quite a vocal departure for the singer.
Musically it ranges from Celtic-Soul (‘Love You Like I Love You’ ), to Americana (‘Are We Free, ‘Blue River’ ), to country flourishes and indie-folk (‘Play With The Mind’ ), while throughout are piano motifs with mini-classical flourishes (‘Miss Me When I’m Gone’ ) that add to the sense of drama, emotion, and atmosphere, each track effortlessly, naturally, reflecting the changes and unfolding drama of the couple’s relationship. A serious contender for Irish album of the year.