Photographers: Mike Scott ; Paul Mac Manus; Steve Wickham.
If you're a longtime Waterboys fan who often wonders when Mike Scott is going to get funky -- well, your time has finally come. Stylistic shape-shifting has long been part of Scott's modus operandi, but with the Waterboys' ambitious 2017's double set Out of All This Blue, Scott and his collaborators have jumped headfirst into R&B and funk rhythms, with drum loops and hip-hop-influenced production dominating many of the tracks. This being a Waterboys album, there's an eclectic variety of sounds and genres here, including more familiar detours into Celtic, country, and folk-influenced tracks and a few numbers that focus on Japanese culture (part of the album was recorded in Tokyo). But the majority of the album finds Scott and company belatedly embracing dance rhythms, and he takes to the funk more comfortably than one might expect. When Scott sings about the rough-and-tumble side of life in New York City or his pursuit of his latest romantic obsession, his passion lines up perfectly with the snap of the backing tracks, and this album's take on hip-hop rhythms is thankfully organic and non-gimmicky. Out of All This Blue feels a bit overstuffed at 23 tracks spread over two discs, but precious little of it feels like filler, with even the weakest tracks adding to the overall flavor of the album. And Scott remains a great storyteller, whether he's telling a woman why he should be her boyfriend, debating Memphis vs. Nashville, enjoying a night in a dive bar, or telling off Keith Richards. (And Scott responding to an insult to Neville Chamberlain from Kinky Friedman might sound like some sort of joke, but "Kinky's History Lesson" turns out to be one of the strongest and most moving tracks on this album.) Overall, Out of All This Blue is a bold experiment that succeeds, and once again demonstrates the depth and breadth of Mike Scott's talent. ~ Mark Deming