The Wishing Tree is a very fine work and if you’re honest you wouldn’t expect anything else. It also has the feel of a band that is in transition, pushing boundaries, peering over the next horizon.
The opening track, ‘Bluebird’, driven by Jamie Francis’ banjo is a memorial to Donald Campbell and includes what seems like the album’s key line, “It’s better to fall than to never leave the ground”. I’m convinced that the band have passed the pandemic months very fruitfully indeed. ‘Bluebird’ is written by The Lost Boys’ core trio of composers, Kelly, Francis and Graham Coe although there are four traditional songs and a couple on which Archie Churchill-Moss and Toby Schaer contribute.
The booklet was put together in a slightly eccentric manner and I spent some time wondering whether I could take it apart and reassemble it in a better order but I thought better of it. Anyway, the second track is the traditional ‘Tinker’s Poteen’ featuring Michael McGoldrick on uillean pipes and is the sort of working-man number that the band do so well. The mood changes with ‘Guiding Light’, a song of love and separation (I think) although it could refer to alcoholism in an oblique way. It features Schaer’s flute and encompasses the immortal line “You are amitriptyline”. ‘Banks Of Sweet Dundee’ is the second traditional song – you can tell it’s traditional because there are four violent deaths in the story – which Sam sings with great sympathy and restraint.
‘Chalk Line’ is, I suppose, a reflection on the brief nature of our lives and ‘Nature’s Law’ is a reflection on what a bitch it is – a brilliant juxtaposition of ideas, particularly as the latter is moving into hard rock, albeit with a banjo! These two songs are followed by ‘Omens’ which is weird and sinister but is balanced by the traditional ‘Mo Ghile Mear’ and ‘Maria’ which references Irish history and myth and features Laura Wilkie’s fiddle. I didn’t expect to find ‘See That My Grave Is Kept Clean’ is this set but The Lost Boys move it away from its blues origins and make it sound almost like a shanty until they crash in with a huge guitar break. ‘Steal Fire’ is back to hard rock and is a call to arms if I ever heard one but finally we return to the banjo and a traditional sounding tune with lyrics about a place to be alone and safe – ‘The Wishing Tree’.
I don’t believe that Sam and The Lost Boys have ever made a bad record and they haven’t changed now.
Artists’ website: www.samkelly.org
‘Nature’s Law’ – official video: