Collected Works: Music
Room to Roam
by The Waterboys
Nestled in the rolling hills of Ireland’s west coast, a sleepy village plays host to the recital of a romantic tale. We learn of a nameless man who has fallen in love, as bass, drums, and keyboard steer a gently sauntering accompaniment. A flute joins the ensemble with an impish melody, along with a saxophone and sustained violins. The object of the man’s affection becomes clearer as the lyrical clues grow more personal. At the moment of revelation, a fiery jig ensues, burning with unwavering jubilance.
Room to Roam draws widely on Gaelic culture. Crafted within a Gaeltacht region, it is born of a conscious immersion in the area’s time-honoured traditions. The Waterboys’ primary goal is to tackle the manifold style of Celtic rock, and the band members ensure that each of the genre’s strands is touched upon. They offer punchy reels and forthright folk songs, ranging from the delicate to the celebratory. Structure varies along with size; the frequent fading postludes add much colour in little time.
Throughout, the fiddle plays a lead instrumental role. In the succinct opening ballad, ‘In Search of a Rose’, it weaves a countermelody to partner the words. Unflagging, it drives the recurring tune of ‘The Raggle Taggle Gypsy’, strengthened by a tin whistle’s doubling. ‘Something That Is Gone’ owes a great deal of its jazzy swagger to its languid string arrangement. Elsewhere, a sprightly accordion leads ‘The Trip to Broadford’, an evocative miniature, while a didgeridoo grounds ‘Islandman’.
The album is the distilled product of a lengthy studio collaboration, during which the group’s musical influences were, in frontman Mike Scott’s words, ‘smelted together in a Celtic fire’. Yet, however varied the assortment of tracks may be, they form a single, exuberant sojourn. Room to Roam may be imagined as a gig in a crowded pub, or the soundtrack to a hike, heard over headphones. At its heart is its nostalgic charm, the appeal of endless songwriting and sprawling jams in rural County Galway.
Words by Hugh Maloney