Of all the frontmen/songwriters of bands that flourished and catapulted to popularity in the ’80s phase of Post-Punk/Indie/New Wave, Mike Scott, who carries the moniker The Waterboys, remains among the most productive– fifteen overall studio albums (seventeenth if you count Scott’s solo branded records from the ’90s) since 1983, from that year’s self-titled to the most recent, All Souls Hill. Released on Friday, May 6, 2022, via Cooking Vinyl Records, All Souls Hill is part of the string of records that Scott released in quick succession that started in 2015 with Modern Blues. Consisting of nine tracks, it continues its predecessor, 2020’s Good Luck, Seeker, exploration of Folk/Country/Blues Rock.
A worthy follow up, it opens with the sliding swagger of the title-track and then followed by the cool, almost Reggae-inspired “The Liar,” which conjures an image of a smoke-filled little town pub. The Waterboys then turn sentimental with the slow, poetic, dreamy tendencies of “The Southern Moon,” as Scott sings, “The night, my dear, was cool and clear / I lay awake, too wide awake to sleep.” The pace then picks up with the swirling and upbeat “Blackberry Girl,” featuring Ian McNabb of The Icicle Works on backing vocals; this will most likely be the album’s future hit.
Then picture not a rainbow but an acoustic guitar-wielding troubadour seated by the waterfalls beside a hill, and that is what “Hollywood Blues” may paint with sonic hues and saxophone-shaped spruce. The meditative excursion of the mind then delivers the narrative that is “In My Dreams,” after which “Once Were Brothers” trots like a weary adventurer on a desert-dry journey. “Here We Go Again” then switches the star-bright lights on, as it launches a playful Scott on a backdrop of tuneful instrumentation.
Finally, Scott and the rest of The Waterboys -Simon Dine (guitar), Aongus Ralston and Mike Brignaldello (bass), Greg Morrow and Ralph Salmins (drums), Brother Paul (keyboards, synthesizers), James Hallawell (piano, accordion, organ, guitar, backing vocals), Pee Wee Ellis (saxophone), and Melvin Duffy (pedal steel guitar) – wear their cowboy hats, mount their honky-tonk horses, invoke the gospels, and serenade under the red berry moon their revered prophets, pastors, and poets with “Passing Through.”
Prolific as ever, The Waterboys seems unstoppable. May the panmeister Scott with his kindred sonic spirits continue to make records that remain rooted yet relevant at the same time, forever anchored to the band’s diverse influences and attuned to new possibilities. All Souls Hill is only the second for the current decade; let us hope that more albums are yet to come. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives All Souls Hill 4 out of 5 stars.