If you have an interest in the Irish rock music scene and are of a certain age (we won’t say what age) then Will Merriman’s The Harvest Ministers are no strangers. For many there are fond memories of The Harvest Ministers on No Disco when Donal Dineen was still presenting it, but some may not realise that they have been in existence since 1987. With a revolving line up with the axis around Merriman, they put out six albums, four EP’s and a number of singles. ‘You Can See Everything From Here’ is the long awaited anthology of their career.
The Harvest Ministers’ indie folk veered between solemn mood setting songs and more uplifting piano-driven songs. Merriman hadn’t even started out as the band’s vocalist but by the time 1991’s You Do My World The World Of Good was released they had settled into a line up which would form the base for their career.
There is a timeless quality to the kitchen sink low-key lament of this song where they married Merriman’s lyrics with the haunting vocal melodies of Gerardette Bailey. From the same period Six O’Clock Is Rosary is a perfect companion piece for You Do My World The World Of Good.
There is a ramshackle warmth to When I Became Yours while the lovely languid That Won’t Wash introduced the backing vocals of Maeve Roche who had replaced Bailey. One of their more recent songs The Proms (from 2010) has a fantastic woozy piano line that feels like you’re tumbling drunkenly down a corridor.
Merriman has an eye for smart wry lyrics such as “I didn’t heed the warning for those Tombstones eyes/I was too busy looking at her legs and thighs” on Tombstone Eyes. He’s also a great story teller. Witness Friday Night Seance, Funeral Passing By and A River Wedding which all unfold with a narrative that develops over the course of the songs.
Some of the more piano-driven pieces such as Railroaded don’t resonate as strongly today and haven’t aged as well. If It Kills Me And It Will is at odds with itself in that it’s an overly cheery tune that feels just out of sync with its lyrics. The same jauntiness on I Gotta Lie Down doesn’t hit the mark. However there is far more right on this “best of” album than there is wrong. For those new to The Harvest Ministers, this retrospective look is a superb way to get to know them. There is much to enjoy from a band that were remarkably consistent.
Intrigued? Grab the album from theharvestministers.bandcamp.com.