An Appointment with Mr. Yeats
3 out of 5 stars
Mike Scott, aka the Waterboys, doesn’t work on a small scale. Even his earliest work reveled in bombast and bigness with U2 like intentions. Likewise, this two decades in the making set that marries legendary Irish poet W.B. Yeats’ poems with Scott’s music is, by its very nature, a serious and at times pompous project albeit one that exudes plenty of charm and talent. He put one toe in the Yeats water back on 1988’s Fisherman’s Blues with “The Stolen Child,” but jumps all the way in here for 14 tunes and nearly an hour’s worth of music. Most of it is effective, especially when the performance is as driving as Steve Wickham’s wild-haired fiddle on “Mad as the Mist and Snow” or as tuneful as “Sweet Dancer,” a moving duet with female vocalist Katie Kim. There is also no doubting the grand scope of the cascading piano on the arena ready mid-tempo “September 1913.” When Scott strips the sound down to thumping tom toms, sawing fiddle and piano on “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” he’s tapping into much needed subtlety. But too much of this is mired in Scott’s emotional, driven vocals singing poetry that seems shoehorned into the melodies. Yeats isn’t exactly easy reading, so it’s impressive that this album, even with its bumpy spots, remains as listenable as it is. It also grows on you, gradually unwinding and leaving a lasting imprint after the final track like too few longer albums manage. So give Scott props for pushing the lyrical envelope while keeping rooted in the gutsy, high drama Irish folk, rock and dancehall he has made his name delivering over the past three decades.