An artistic peak.
In 1985, Mike Scott was responsible for one of the best rock albums of the eighties, This is the Sea, a record which can stand with anything put out by contemporaries such as U2 and Simple Minds. He then took three years (and went through most of his bandmates) recording this sublime collection influenced by American country music, Irish and Scottish traditional music, and Yeats. Needless to say, Fisherman's Blues sounds almost nothing like earlier Waterboys' records, or almost anything else that was released out at the time. Ironically, it has become Scott's signature collection, the record that yielded his biggest hit and greatest artistic praise.
Highlights include And a Bang on the Ear (a colloquialism for "a peck on the cheek" and not a paeon to domestic violence), the simply sublime title track, and a stunning cover of Van Morrison's "Sweet Thing" which morphs into the Beatles' "Blackbird" and in my opinion manages to eclipse Van's original. The country homage, "Has Anyone Hear Seen Hank" manages to effortlessly summon up the band's love of a certain kind of country music (and performer) without ever falling into cliches or bland homilies.
In truth, there's not a bad track on this and I cannot recommend this album highly enough. Buying it through iTunes, or even on CD, does bring with it a certain irony, however, as this is one of the most analog recordings I can think of. The follow-up, Room to Roam, mines much of the same vein, but never reaches these heights. Similarly, Fisherman's Blues Pt. 2 (available here on iTunes) consists of material recorded around this time, some of which is fantastic, some of which isn't. But if you really want more of this sound, seek out the Fisherman's Box set, which contains six discs worth of the sessions which yielded this album. As with Dylan's Complete Basement Tapes release, opening the door to the vault reveals both gems and experiments fallen flat or gone awry, and a considerable amount of screwing around with the tape running. But just as with the Basement Tapes, there is a timeless quality in these sounds, which make Fisherman's Blues absolutely essential to any well-rounded collection.