1988, Music

Fisherman’s Blues (1988) by The Waterboys

I listened to the Waterboys’ debut a while ago, and grudgingly acknowledged it was probably a pretty big deal in the UK music scene at the time – it might have been the first record you could call “alternative” instead of post punk for all I know – but I didn’t love something about it, particularly something about Mike Scott’s songwriting if memory serves.

But here it’s an entirely different story. The band has moved much closer to folk rock/celtic rock and, I guess, much closer to my wheelhouse. I see many comparisons to the Pogues and that’s kind of fair, I guess, but the Waterboys manage to sound both more modern than the Pogues and less punky. Though I recognize the vague similarities and understand the urge to compare them, to me they sound nothing alike.

I like Scott’s songs so much more this time out and the few covers work well within the context. On a couple tracks Scott really manages to write songs which sound like they could have existed for ages, which really is a complement. (Though one of those he only wrote the music, not the words, which is probably why it sounds old.)

I like the aesthetic a lot more than on their debut, too. Even if it occasionally gets too ’80s for me – somehow those organs sound ’80s to my ears – I think the energy of the performances and their raggedness is really compelling. Even if the songs weren’t so strong I’d probably thoroughly enjoy this record.

Anyway, it’s absolutely great stuff and makes me want to listen to more of their records, which is not a desire I got from their debut record.


  1. “Fisherman’s Blues” (Mike Scott, Steve Wickham) – 4:26
  2. “We Will Not Be Lovers” (Scott) – 7:03
  3. “Strange Boat” (Scott, Anthony Thistlethwaite) – 3:06
  4. “World Party” (Scott, Trevor Hutchinson, Karl Wallinger) – 4:01
  5. “Sweet Thing” (Van Morrison) – 7:14
  6. “Jimmy Hickey’s Waltz” (Scott, Wickham, Thistlethwaite) – 2:06
  7. “And a Bang on the Ear” (Scott, Wickham, Thistlethwaite) – 9:14
  8. “Has Anybody Here Seen Hank” (Scott) – 3:19
  9. “When Will We Be Married” (Traditional, adapted: Scott, Thistlethwaite) – 3:01
  10. “When Ye Go Away” (Scott) – 3:45
  11. “Dunford’s Fancy” (Wickham) – 1:04
  12. “The Stolen Child” (Words: W.B. Yeats, Music: Scott) – 6:55
  13. “This Land Is Your Land” (Woody Guthrie) – 0:56
  • Mike Scott — vocals, guitar, piano, hammond organ, drums, bouzouki
  • Anthony Thistlethwaite — saxophone, mandolin, harmonica, Hammond organ
  • Steve Wickham — violin
  • Trevor Hutchinson — bass guitar, double bass
  • Roddy Lorimer — trumpet
  • Kevin Wilkinson — drums
  • Peter McKinney — drums
  • Dave Ruffy — drums
  • Colin Blakey — piano, flute, border horn
  • Fran Breen — drums
  • Vinnie Kilduff — guitar
  • Noel Bridgeman — tambourine, congas
  • Jay Dee Daugherty — drums
  • Máirtín O’Connor — accordion
  • Alec Finn — bouzouki
  • Charlie Lennon — violin
  • Brendan O’Regan — bouzouki
  • Tomás Mac Eoin — vocals
  • Paraig Stevens — bells
  • Jenny Haan — vocals
  • Ruth Nolan — vocals
  • Rachel Nolan — vocals
  • The Abergavenny Male Voice Choir — vocals
  • Tomas McKeowen – spoken voice

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