The Harvest Ministers
Formed around Dublin songwriter Will Merriman in the late 80s, the group would announce itself through one of the most incredible and distinctive songs of yearning; You Do My World The World Of Good. The glacial pace belies the sophisticated craft on display, with the aching violin and all too human harmonizing wrapping around your heart. They would follow it with the delicate beauty of the equally astonishing Six O’Clock Is Rosary. Somehow, they stunned everyone with the driving and soulful dark party anthem If It Kills Me And It Will as a third single, laying out the game plan for the likes of Belle and Sebastian to follow. One could easily argue that the first three singles are the strongest three song introduction made by any artist of the time period. Sarah Records would release the three, along with their debut album, Little Dark Mansion.
Horns greet you immediately on Grey Matters and Merriman never looks back. Blending soul and R&B and country and folk with his Irish romanticism, his songs are both intricate and heartfelt. Merriman’s contemporaries are the likes of Mike Scott of The Waterboys or Stuart Murdoch, writers with a deep and winding appreciation of rock and roll from its very beginnings, colored by being born on a windswept island with a long literary history. Each melody tugs and every word twists.
Signing with Setanta and Bar/None, the band released back to back albums filled end to end with beauty and sadness and wild eyes and broken hearts on songs that would proudly sit side by side with those from Gram Parsons, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan. You might wonder how is it that you haven’t heard of them before if these songs are as incredible as described? It is a legitimate question, and it is forever a mystery how they didn’t become massive. Not coy and cute like the aforementioned Belle and Sebastian, who would show up a year later, nor dark and brooding like a PJ Harvey, whose collaborator John Parish produced their Orbit album. The Harvest Ministers wrote songs for everyday people, not trying to be too smart for their own good. Just trying to be good. So very good.
Merriman continues to write and still has a golden touch, proof of which should come in a new studio album on their autonomous label Crayon Records in 2024. A true Irish treasure, The Harvest Ministers catalog is a wildly rewarding stack of songwriting joys.