Tuesday, November 11, 2014



Unusually, at least for me, this post is prompting you toward an entire LP, arguably also maybe the entire solo output, of journeysmith muso Anto Thistlethwaite, one of those awkward northern English names that never look as if they are spelt right. Or ever could be. A name such as Thistlesthwaite smacks of the soil to me, and it is thus no surprise that his oeuvre is chock-full of earthy and organic delights.

His name is probably best known to 2 groups of fans, those of the Waterboys and those of the Saw Doctors, 2 different reflections of an Irish heritage, the sublime and the ridiculous, the romantic and the rowdy. (OK, chief Waterboy, Mike Scott is a Scot, but it is arguably his band and its foray into County Clare that is best known these days.) Between the formation of the Waterboys in the early 80s, through their "Big Music" phase, and their first disintegration, in 1991, by then an almost entirely Celtic inspired quasi-folk (rock) band, Anto was first on sax and later also on mandolin, harmonica and keyboards. For a recent 25th anniversary tour, reprising the various editions and volumes of Fisherman's Blues, he rejoined the ranks (and I was lucky enough to see the band when they touched down in Birmingham, U.K.) After the Waterboys, and a tour or so guesting, he became an official member of the Saw Doctors. He has also notched up a hefty range of sessional work with artists as diverse as Donovan and the Vibrators, Bob Dylan and the Psychedelic Furs, to mention a handful, as well as 5 solo albums. It is to the 2nd of these, from 1994, that I refer.

A&M were the record company of the Waterboys for some time, who were no doubt counting no few chickens as the band first began shedding members, as each departee seemed to establish further success, Karl Wallinger being the first such example, his World Party also signing to the same label. As Anto jumped ship they were likely waiting for him, an unsurprisingly similar aura hanging over each of the various alumni, raggedly sturdy vocals fronting a jangly, melody driven school of songwriting. So, getting finally on theme, Cartwheels. Throughout this record is a a rural ambience, redolent of ploughed fields and evocative of hedgerows. With input from the likes of Kirsty MacColl, Eddi Reader and Sharon Shannon, the idea of there being an earth mother is never far away, with perhaps Ralph McTell there to be the wise scarecrow, seering and sageing the ages. But other cameos include Mick Taylor, yes, that one. and Sonny Landreth, so the hint of guitar pyrotechnic, albeit with a lazy vibe, is never too far away. Here's 3 songs to prove it, the lyrics tending towards an explanation of my choice.

This last must be the only song that, I think (and it's hard to be sure) that has a spoken dedication to a tractor, at 3.46!

This is agro-rock by any exemplar. I hope you have been uplifted enough to seek it further, so here's the link!

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