Fabled band The Waterboys, fronted by legendary band leader Mike Scott, are releasing their 14th album, “Good Luck, Seeker” on August 21st. The latest release is the final instalment of a triptych started in 2017 by the band that includes Out of the Blue and last year’s stellar Where the Action Is. Throughout this latest outing, Scott and Co. dip into their four-decade-long history drawing inspiration from their acclaimed albums A Pagan Place, The Fisherman’s Blues, and various other releases.
On Good Luck, Seeker Scott effortlessly displays his celebrated sonic and wordsmithing abilities. It is instantly clear that The Waterboys continue to release music not because they have anything left to prove but for the simple love of crafting new music. This latest instalment is another chapter recording the journey Scott is on and displays a musical mind unfettered by convention or the current trends while providing an exciting listening experience.
The 14 tracks on Good Luck, Seeker are populated by unique individuals who frequently walk unbeaten paths; be they soul legends, mystics or outlaw film stars. Scott draws inspiration from The Stones, Kate Bush, Sly and the Family Stone, Kendrick and stellar Waterboys history to produce the sonics and tones for the release. The album is best described as part song diary, part epic and a spoken word recording.
Good Luck, Seeker was created in Scott’s Dublin home studio while in lockdown. Scott sent tracks to members of the band which launched a back and forth over email between the band members and Scott leading to the end release. Scott has stated that the album came into existence almost by accident as he and continuing band members; keyboardist Brother Paul Brown, fiddler Steve Wickham and drummer Ralph Salmins had an almost giddy “kid in the candy store” approach to recording.
The new release opens with the scintillating “The Soul Singer” that is equal parts storytelling and comedy as Scott relates the description of a narcissistic, aggrieved band leader long in the tooth and jaded by his experiences. Supposedly based on a real-life musical frontman, the listener can have fun trying to identify the subject. The frontman of the song is characterized as “He likes to grumble, loves to scoff about all the cats that ripped him off”. “The Soul Singer” is a “not to be missed” track that has immediately gone into my favourites playlist. The sonic energy of the R&B funk drives this winning first single off the album.
“You’ve Got to Kiss a Frog or Two” is an amalgam of a contemporary ballad with a slathering of R&B goodness. The song is a twist on the fairy tale The Frog Prince and reminded me of the works of Paul Weller with The Style Council. Scott exhorts the listener that they should never give up on finding their Prince or Princess Charming. “Low Down in The Broom” shows Scott in one of his most familiar iterations, folkster master craftsman delivering exuberance. The song is ebullient about the wonder of love. With this track, The Waterboys deliver a gloriously revamped UK folk ballad with the wide-eyed wonder that is their trademark.
Scott with the Waterboys has always delivered the unexpected and “Dennis Hopper” continues in that fine tradition. The song opens with the rev of a motorcycle engine opener harkening to Hopper’s most iconic work “Easy Rider”. Scott combines a Rock/Rap approach to give a hat tip to Hopper’s esteemed career and life ethos. In the song, Hopper is presented as the witness to the transitions of popular society that occurred and that he helped spur in his lifetime. Of note are the percussive skills on the track that drives the narrative with their power and command.
Scott as always on this recording delivers a childlike enthusiasm while combining various genres and sonic approaches. This is displayed clearly as he moves from the rocker that is “Dennis Hopper” to the DayGlo, Brit Pop sonics of “Freak Street”, a track that personifies every local bohemian scene. Scott changes thing up on the brief almost instrumental “Sticky Fingers”, a tribute to the Rolling Stones work.
I will admit I always have mixed feeling about covers and especially when the cover is of a song by one of my personal patron saints Kate Bush but I liked the track tremendously. Nothing is ever better than Kate but this cover is winning. “Why Should I Love You” off of Kate Bush’s The Red Shoes holds the same drama that Kate has always provided but in a unique way. From that inspired cover, the band takes a turn at pulled around psychedelic on “The Golden Work” which lyrically is adapted from the writings of English Mystic Charles Williams. The song is a singular sonic experience not to be overlooked.
The centrepiece of the album for me is “My Wandering in the Weary Land” which delivers the end punctuation to the triad of their recent releases. Each of the last three albums records the band’s recent journey and here is a review of that hegira. The song will be familiar to long time fans of The Waterboys with the backtrack coming from their song “The Return of Jimi Hendrix”. Scott has wanted to reinvent the track for a long time and finally does it here while reading the sleeve notes from the Waterboys’ album A Rock in a Weary Land. The song is best characterized as Scott’s walkthrough modern life, a sonic biography of sorts, and “A testament of my wondering in a weary land”. The track is epic and anathematic delivering hope and cynicism in equal measure.
“Postcards from the Celtic Dreamtime” dates its existence back to 1988 when Scott was working on Fisherman’s Blues and not surprisingly conveys that same lyricism and atmospheric motif. The track also acts as a wind down from the ecstatic “My Wandering in the Weary Land”. The Thoreau inspired “back to nature” enthusiasm captured in the piece is gorgeous and made me want to immediately jump a plane to Scotland.
The title track, “Good Luck, Seeker” is a whimsical selection using an instrumental from a contemporary Northumbrian folk group, The Unthanks, that is turned on its head adding an R&B/Hip Hop approach. Scott uses an affected flute voiced, cut crystal British accent as he reads a passage from a book by British occultist Dion Fortune. The release ends with an apt sendoff to this kaleidoscope recording with the song “The Land of Sunset”. The keyboard play of Brother Paul Brown is the feature. The track is both pastoral and deeply moving as the track fades into silence echoing the sunset of each day.
There are very few bands who could sustain the interest of the listener through 14 eclectic tracks on an album. But not only do The Waterboys manage this feat on Good Luck, Seeker but they do it with the same verve and brilliance that has sustained them through now four decades. Scott is a singularly gifted songwriter with a well-honed ability to marry various sonic genres and approaches together to present his vision. You can never be bored with Scott at the helm of a release; his enthusiasm for music and its various iterations makes any work from the Waterboys enticing. Yet again with Good Luck, Seeker the Waterboys add a worthy new addition to their esteemed and now legendary discography.