All Souls Hill

The Waterboys

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All Souls Hill Review

by Mark Deming

As befits a man whose résumé makes room for sweeping, anthemic rock as well as intimate, soulful Celtic music, Mike Scott of the Waterboys is always open to take his work in different directions. While his fans were doubtless surprised when Scott began exploring hip-hop-influenced production techniques that constructed tunes from a patchwork of samples, loops, electronic keyboards, and organic sounds, Scott has clearly been energized by the new sounds he created on 2017's Out of All This Blue, 2019's Where the Action Is, and 2020's Good Luck, Seeker. Scott had reportedly regarded those albums as a trilogy and was planning to move on to other things before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. He spent his unexpected downtime in his studio, where he found a file of instrumental tracks that producer Simon Dine had worked up and sent to him. Scott like what he heard and decided to collaborate with Dine. Their efforts came to full fruition on 2022's All Souls Hill, which also made room for a bit more of the classic Waterboys sound (well, some of their classic sounds) while also plugging back into the electronic frameworks of the albums that immediately preceded it. Part of the charm of Scott's 2010s Waterboys releases is that, for all the ambition and inventiveness of the backing tracks, Scott still sounds just like Scott, a young/old man with an eye for the magic of life's most ordinary things, and that hasn't changed a bit on All Souls Hill. The anti-Trump broadside "The Liar," the moody reverie of "In My Dreams," and the piano-sampling riff on the musician's life on "Here We Go Again" show how well he can write in his electronic cut-and-paste format, and his very individual reworkings of the folk standard "Passing Through" and Robbie Robertson's elegy for the Band "Once Were Brothers" (both of which incorporate new lyrics from Scott) will comfort old fans as he shows he can still engage with organic music making and do it with genuine passion and heart. (The joyously rowdy cover of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" that appears on the expanded version of the album is a grand reminder that Scott still rocks hard when he's of a mind.) Just one year shy of the 40th anniversary of the Waterboys' debut album, All Souls Hill shows Mike Scott is still willing to follow his muse wherever it cares to go, and his casual fearlessness still brings forth good results; this is fun, thoughtful, expressive music from a man whose inspiration has yet to run dry.

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