Mick Flannery

Mick Flannery slumps over a battered piano in some basement dive as he drags deep on a cigarette, tilts his trilby hat down a bit lower and stares intently at the black and white keys in front of him. Slowly he begins to pick out some chords and over them he rasps something in a gentle voice about not wanting to be anybody’s “safety rope”. As the song builds, some strings subtly fill out the sound and a sassy looking woman adds some sultry backing vocals.

They say you always remember your first time and you always remember the image conjured up in your head the first time you hear Mick Flannery. He may sound like a razzled old soak from some junk New Orleans neighbourhood who has been terminally affected by the blues and just can’t get himself a break in this lousy, two-bit life. But he is in fact a muscular 24 year old stonemason from Blarney, Co. Cork. However as 24 year old stonemasons go, he is embarrassingly talented and is someone who seems to have marinated himself in the most beautifully eloquent music of the last 50 years.

His voice sounds like that of someone who grew up in a car exhaust factory. But there’s more to it that those low and dirty tones – he can scale his way up the vocal register to produce a gossamer thin vocal delivery that coaxes all the gentle lyricism out of the songs. Other times, he could have his finger in his ear and be singing in a folk club with no amplification.

You haven’t heard music as resonant as this for a long time: throughout the album you’ll hear moments that put you in mind of The Blue Nile’s plangent piano chords, and the sort of artful acoustic strumming that was probably last heard in Greenwich Village coffee shops in the early 1960′s. These are songs that naturally produce their own echo – long after you’ve heard them, they’re still floating somewhere around your head.

Brought up on a farmland outside Blarney, Mick’s first real connection to music was watching an unplugged Nirvana covering Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold The World”. He sold his soul that day and after a stint in Music College in Cork, he went wandering in the U.S. for a few years. While there, he astonished everyone, but most of all himself, by winning a US International Songwriting Competition award for one of his first ever compositions. If you’ve never heard of the award, don’t worry, not many have. But just consider that the judge of Mick’s category was none other than Tom Waits – a man who may know a little bit about truly powerful and emotional songwriting ability.

Anything else you want to know about Mick is contained in this truly wondrous collection of songs. Listen to him on the album’s stand-out track, “Goodbye” laying it bare as he sings over the sweetest of melody lines: “When I said I’d make the time, and tomorrow I’d call by, that was a lie. I’m no ladies’ man and I never will be one of them. I didn’t steal from you, and what happened here was nothing new. Not to make it all sound vain, you lay the man, you lay his name … but lay no claim”. Other songwriters would struggle to deliver such a searingly honest sentiment over the course of an entire career. And so much more unfolds over the course of this heartfelt album: Dim the lights, crank up the volume and prepare to be warmly embraced by the sort of music that you thought had gone forever.