75 Essential Albums – Day #37 – The Waterboys

Here goes with day 37of my countdown of 75 Albums that in my opinion should have a place in everyones music collection.  They are not in any particular order though the top 10 will be my personal take on the top 10 albums ever released.  You might be surprised at some of my picks and some of my omissions.  Feel free to chime in with your comments and let me know if you love (or hate my choices).

 The Waterboys – Fishermans Blues

Fishermans Blues was the 4th Studio album by Mike Scott’s Waterboys.  After the big rock sound this album caused quite a stir on its release as it took the band in a different direction.  Blues, Rock and Roll, Country and Celtic folk music all get a run out on Fishermans Blues.

Steve Wickham had considerable influence on this album and it is the sound of his fiddle that is perhaps the driving force of the whole piece.  The album was mainly recorded in Dublin and as is often the case with the Waterboys a large number of tracks were laid down before the albums running order was decided upon.  The release recently of the ‘Fishermans Box’ set of the sessions give some clue to this as there are 121 tracks in the box set.  This probably also accounts for the variety of the cuts that made it onto the disc.

The album opens with the title track the simple guitar and fiddle intro giving a hint of what is to come.  Scotts voice dominates the song though Wickhams fiddle does take centre stage on a couple of occasions.  The stripped back feel continues on ‘We will not be ‘lovers’ and ‘Strange Boat before the album hits one of its highlights with a gorgeous rendition of Van Morrisons masterpiece ‘Sweet Thing’.

The opening of Sweet Thing is remarkably similar to Morrison’s version until Wickham’s fiddle kicks in.  Scott has frequently said how much he admires Morrison’s work and this is very apparent when he scats his way through parts of the song.  You can feel Scotts love of the song in every syllable and the song is an epic highlight.  After a short interlude Scott hits another epic with the brilliant ‘Bang on the Ear’ in which Scott tells the story of past loves in every verse.  It is a wonderful story in the finest of the folk tradition and is probably my favourite Waterboys song of all time.

Next up is Scotts tribute to Hank Williams in ‘Has anyone here seen Hank’ it tells the tale of Williams’ drinking and womanising in a fairly humorous fashion but more importantly it signposts a change in direction for the second half of the album.

‘When will we be married’ is a traditional folk song, ‘When you go away’ and Dunfords Fancy are very much folk songs as is the albums closing tune a cover of Woodie Guthries ‘This land is your Land’.  The highlight of the second half is ‘The Stolen Child’ which clocks in at a little over 6 minutes.  The song is now recognised as much more significant than it was at the time of release as it is the first Yeates poem that Scott put to music.  This tends to indicate that Scott had the idea of his ‘Appointment with Mr Yeates’ in his mind for many years before it finally came to fruition with its release in 2011.

Fishermans Blues is a superb piece of work and will be especially appealing to lovers of folk rock.  It is diverse, interesting and multi layered.  A fantastically structured and beautifully produced album which is relevant and enduring even today.

Sing out here if you want to be heard!

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