- 10 Sep 21
Folk singers deliver arresting joint offering.
The world has known its share of dynamic folk duos. In Ireland alone, Gay and Terry Woods, Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan, and The Swell Season all had their heyday, leaving extraordinary music in their wake before splitting up. The latest to venture into the bracket are Mick Flannery and Susan O’Neill, with In The Game. They're certainly two powerful individual talents, but together – they're nothing short of electric.
On In The Game, Flannery and O’Neill rely on emotionally immediate storytelling to chart the heady beginnings and visceral lows of two fictional musicians. They follow motifs that are frequently tapped by the folk community, but instead of veering into tropes, In The Game is refreshing and delightfully unpretentious. Whether on the seductive, bluesy ‘Trouble’ or the heartbreaking album closer ‘Ghost’ — a vocal standout from Flannery, who delivers a stunning falsetto — Flannery and O'Neill entirely avoid the formulaic. It helps that the narrative isn’t necessarily unspooled sequentially. It doesn’t need to be: love isn't a linear thing.
Flannery – a stalwart of the singer-songwriter scene – gives O’Neill an equal amount of the spotlight on In The Game, and rightly so. A relative newcomer, she is currently Ireland’s best-kept secret. Her wonderfully adaptable, whiskey-warm voice is a trump card on the album, lifting it beautifully here and grounding it impressively there.
It’s languorous on ‘Lonely Wins’, effervescent on the gospel-infused ‘Chain Reaction’, and devoid of frills – but full of character – on ‘Baby Talk’. Fusing singer-songwriter dynamics with rich, full soul sounds, In The Game is a stunning and cathartic offering from a duo who seem to have figured out how bottle pure magic.
Listen to the album below.