Album Reviews

The Waterboys

Out of All This Blue

Artist:     The Waterboys

Album:     Out of All This Blue

Label:     The End/BMG

Release Date:     9.8.2017

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Thirty-five years on and across a dizzying array of lineups, the Waterboys hardly resemble the traditionally-sounding British Isles band that gave us Fisherman Blues and Room to Roam. Leader/vocalist/composer Mike Scott has always had an adventurous spirt and has taken more than a few risks, paying tribute to artists like Jimi Hendrix, exploring poetic mysticism, and even putting the words of poet William Butler Yeats to music. What has sustained Scott through the years, though, is his marvelous gift for infectious hooks, indelible melodies, and intelligent lyrics. Those traits, together with his multi-instrumental skills and absolute command of the stage as a front man have served him well. This could be the band’s most exploratory album yet, certainly its most contemporary, comprising 23 songs across two discs. It’s a sparkling pop tour de force with echoes of classic R&B, country, soul and funk, underpinned by modern hip hop productions values and rhythms. There are strings, horns, background singers, drum loops, electronica effects and a world view that stems from recording both in Dublin and Tokyo.

The exuberant Scott explains that the album is “two-thirds love and romance and one-third stories and observations.” His rule for a double album is “all killer, no filler,” citing the Stones Exile on Main Street as a model. The love and romance stems from Scott’s recent marriage to controversial Japanese artist Megumi Igorishi. Much inspiration also came from American music. “I started making this record after the band’s spring 2015 North American tour. I always come back from touring America inspired and hungry to write, and this time I even came back with the first few songs completed on the road, most unusual for me. They were “Nashville, Tennessee,” which I wrote on the day of our gig in that city and the love song “Santa Fe.” And as soon as I got home the other songs started to flow. I was inspired by having such a killer lineup of the Waterboys at the time, with David Hood from Muscle Shoals, Zach Ernst from Austin, and Brother Paul (Brown) from Memphis on bass, guitar, and keyboards. Those boys lifted me and I felt I was writing stuff for them to play.”

It remains to be seen if any enduring singalong tunes like “Whole of the Moon” will emerge from this effort but “Nashville, Tennessee,” “Morning Came Too Soon,” “Love Walks In,” “If the Answer is Yeah,” and “Didn’t We Walk on Water” all have that potential. “Monument” seems to be a clever political dig and “Kinky’s History Lesson” is an interesting rebuff to Kinky Friedman.

The Waterboys are on tour now with a 9-piece band for their tour of the UK, Ireland and Europe. Joining the core lineup of Mike Scott, Steve Wickham, Ralph Salmins, Brother Paul and new bassist Aongus Ralston will be Nashville guitarist Bart Walker, formerly of The Royal Southern Brotherhood, a second drummer Jon Green, and Dublin-based vocalists Jess Kav and Zennie Summers, both on this album. “It’s gonna be something like Joe Cocker’s 1970 Mad Dogs & Englishmen ensemble with two killer drummers, soulful singers and a big band, said Mike Scott. We’re excited!” Their live show with a six-piece was tremendous (i.e. go to YouTube for Glastonbury 2015). We can only imagine what this new tour will be like, now that they’re stocked with so many new, engaging songs.

—Jim Hynes

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