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Sometimes it's difficult to comprehend just why Mick Flannery
is as popular as he is in an era when a musician's persona
can do as much for their career as their product can.
The cantankerously quiet man from Blarney isn't widely
regarded for his charisma - notoriously shy, both in interview
mode and when indulging in banter (or lack thereof) between
songs when performing live. But as his platinum-selling
second album White Lies proved, Flannery lets his music
do the talking - and it's well able to sell itself. Three
and a half years on from the release of White Lies comes
Red to Blue - the part-time stonemason turned troubadour
once again carving and chiselling a collection of songs
which are rooted in misery but triumph through the adversity.
Opening track 'Gone Forever' sets the tone as the first
of four amped-up track on this instalment of the Flannery
discography - his voice in top form, bluesy rock at its
finest, with a killer harmonica solo to boot. Similarly,
his soaring chorus vocals against a background of brass
on 'No Way To Live' impress greatly. Title-track 'Red
to Blue' is probably the closest we'll ever get to an
all-out anthem from Flannery - and surprisingly, it's
a style which works well for him. But the real allure
of Mick Flannery continually lies in the angst-laden ballads
- and they're in no short supply on Red to Blue.
The flamenco-rooted intro to 'Ships in the Night' builds
into a melody which can't quite make its mind up between
major and minor; it's a song which encompasses all that
is great about Mick Flannery - stripped back musically
with just guitar and strings to accompany his dulcet tones,
but by no means devoid of variety, and lyrically insightful
to boot. The simplicity of the combination of acoustic
guitar, strings, and rumbling percussion of 'Only Getting
On' works beautifully, as the softly-sung gravelly tones
of Flannery detail the romantic tribulations of a touring
musician. His tendency towards bluntness when it comes
to matters of the heart is alive and well - the straightforward
sentiment of "If you don't want me, go away"
on acoustic number 'Keeping Score' cuts straight to the
heart of the matter. Flannery switches his allegiance
to the ivory for the romantic waltz of 'Boston' - again,
the impassioned vocal delivery of a wonderfully simple
refrain and accompanying piano impossibly striking.
Nothing stands out as much as 'Wish You Well' or 'Safety
Rope' did on White Lies - but this isn't detraction. In
taking his time crafting Red to Blue, what Flannery has
done is take the best elements of his previous offerings
and merge them with new musical styles to make it a more
complete body of work as opposed to an album from which
to single out favourites. A certain commercial success,
it can only build on the strong reputation garnered by
its predecessors. Probably best to avoid it if you're
in the throes of emotional trauma, though.