The Waterboys

Modern Blues

(Harlequin And Clown)

After fattening up back catalogue releases and finally seeing his WB Yeats pet project to fruition, Mike Scott has tipped the folk/rock seesaw of his band's output in favour of the latter for this eleventh studio album, recorded in Nashville.

Either he's been breathing deep of the Tennessee air or absorbing the vibes of the seasoned session musicians alongside him (who include Muscle Shoals legend David Hood on bass), but Modern Blues boogies hard with distorted guitars and Hammond organ to create a big music of a different strain.

The result is neither truly blues (although there are songs about troubled relationships) nor truly modern (despite being the style Scott has appropriated for his songwriting right here and now). The closest he gets to an existential grumble is his song-length moan about the closure of book and record shops on Nearest Thing To Hip.

At times, Scott's trademark Celtic storyteller persona appears to be supping from a deep southern stew, particularly when Steve Wickham's fuzzed-up fiddle joins his guitar for a double-pronged wig-out on Destinies Entwined and Still A Freak. It works, mostly, and also finds time for neat piece of Starship-style 80s pop-rock (Beautiful Now) and arrangements that would have graced a turn-of-the-70s Stones album (November Tale).

Alan Morrison