mon 24/06/2024

CD: The Waterboys - Modern Blues | reviews, news & interviews

CD: The Waterboys - Modern Blues

CD: The Waterboys - Modern Blues

Mike Scott’s crew bring some psychedelic soul to the Big Music

The Waterboys - Cheese-free anthems

The Waterboys’ lynchpin, singer, guitarist and main song-writer, Mike Scott clearly has no interest in pretending that he’s still a young man. Modern Blues, the band’s first set of new material following 2013’s 25th anniversary celebration of Fisherman’s Blues, is a mature album of tunes that contemplate the world from a distinctly middle-aged perspective with all its attendant regret, nostalgia and more than a dash of hope for the future.

Scott’s singing freely references the likes of Sun Ra, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Elvis. There’s even a sample of a Jack Kerouac monologue from On the Road and there’s certainly no Nick Cave-like mention of Miley Cyrus. In fact, “Middle-aged Blues” might have been a more accurate title for this set of tunes.

Alongside old hands, Scott, multi-instrumentalist Steve Wickham and drummer Ralph Salmins, Modern Blues sees the band’s ever-changing line-up welcome aboard keyboardist “Brother” Paul Brown and legendary Muscle Shoals bassist David Hood. This is a stroke of genius that brings plenty of psychedelic soul touches to the Waterboys’ usual gumbo of Celtic folk, gospel, country and rock – particularly on “Rosalind (You Married the Wrong Guy)”, recent single “November Tale” and the glorious finale that is “Long Strange Golden Road”.

Other highlights include the rousing “Destinies Entwined” and an anthem for disco dads everywhere, “Still a Freak”, as well as a sweet celebration of long-term relationships, “Beautiful Now”. It isn’t all gold though and Scott does drop the ball on “The Girl Who Slept for Scotland”, which wanders far too close to Chris Rea territory for comfort. But given that this is the Waterboys' tenth album since 1983’s self-titled debut, Modern Blues suggests that growing older is nothing to be feared by a songwriter of Mike Scott’s calibre and a band that can avoid cheesiness while delivering anthemic songs that could fill any room.

Overleaf: listen to “Destinies Entwined”


A mature album of tunes that contemplate the world from a distinctly middle-aged perspective


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters