In Modern Blues, the 11th studio album by The Waterboys, Mike Scott sums up his career to date in a single phrase: “I’m not bitter and I’m no quitter”. Right from their 1983 eponymous debut album, Scott has used The Waterboys as a vehicle to explore his own particular vision – The Big Music. By 1985’s This Is The Sea, Scott had honed The Big Music to a widescreen, anthemic sound that with a just a little bit of compromise could have morphed into arena rock and taken over the world. Instead, Scott hired a fiddle player, decamped to the west coast of Ireland and left world domination to Simple Minds and U2.

Essentially, Mike Scott is The Waterboys. Band members have come and gone – according to Wikipedia more than 70 people have performed live as a member of the band – but The Big Music has never deserted him. It was there over 25 years ago on Fisherman’s Blues and it is here today on Modern Blues: Churning, soaring Hammond organ; riffing, spitting guitars, and in Scott’s songs, an unerring ability to seek out the magic in the seemingly mundane.

Having just edged past his mid-fifties Scott is in reflective mood, lyrically if not musically. In November Tale, Scott re-encounters an old love and reflects on what was, what might have been and what could yet be. Two old flames burning down their past mistakes. Rosalind (You Married The Wrong Guy) provides detailed evidence as to why the fragrant Ros made a massive mistake by not agreeing to become Mrs Michael Scott. On a more fanciful note, if you have ever wondered how The King spends his days in the hereafter, wonder no more. It’s all here in I Can See Elvis. I won’t spoil it for you but suffice to say, he’s still taking care of business.

The current incarnation of The Waterboys imbues these songs, and the others on the album, with that timeless quality that Scott has made his trademark, carrying the past securely into the future. Let’s hope he keeps on hearing The Big Music for many years to come.

John Scott

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