sat 24/02/2024

Album: Van Morrison - Moving on Skiffle | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Van Morrison - Moving on Skiffle

Album: Van Morrison - Moving on Skiffle

Van goes back to the beginning with an enriching tribute to the songs that raised him

'Those great Van Morrison vocals that make you forget all the bad things in life'

This double album takes Van Morrison back to one of his early muses – Skiffle and its repertoire, that precursor to the rock'n'roll years that took hold of Britain in the 1950s, having percolated across the USA through the first half of the century, combining folk, blues, country, bluegrass and jazz into one steaming head of home-brewed folk, hopped up on washboards, jugs, washtub bass and the like.

It was arguably the first flame of the fire that consumed the music world of the 1960s as Skiffle-addicted teens like Van grew into leaders of the Sixties beat boom and the subsequent invasion of the US charts, concert halls and stadia.

From the standpoint of 2023, it feels like going back to before the age of the dinosaurs (the rock dinosaurs, at least), and it fizzes with freshness, vitality, energy and youth, even if its singer is in his late seventies, famously curmudgeonly and recently a controversial opponent of government responses to Covid. Morrison has been in some quarters somewhat persona non grata as a result at least he stopped short of comparing lockdown to slavery – and here, anyway, all that is brushed off, bounced out, packed away and returned to sender, because this is a high-spirited, wonderfully sung roots music album, Van’s equivalent of Dylan’s 1993 set World Gone Wrong, except here it feels like the world’s doing better than alright. Perhaps that’s what the sound of Sticky Wicket’s washboard, Dave Keary’s bluesy guitar, a rollicking organ, Van’s own sax playing and the treacle-rich backing vocals from Crawford Bell, Dana Masters and Jolene O’Hara will do when you mix them in a room and let the heat of Van’s voice raise everything up to cooking temperature. It’s a joy to hear him like this, and with this repertoire, the music he heard as a teenager.

Among the 23 cuts is a beautifully measured version of Hank Williams “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, a percussive, swinging take of Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On” and a bouncing version of “Gypsy Davy” that sounds like it floated in from the warm, fluid sound world of Into the Music. Stir in songs from Elizabeth Cotton, Lead Belly, Big Bill Broonzy, Ricky Nelson and Woody Guthrie, and sound sources ranging from doo-wop and rockabilly to country and blues, and Moving on Skiffle proves to be a sophisticated, soulful evocation of Skiffle’s and his own spirits and sources, stretching away through the figure of WC Handy, through whoever first sang “Worried Man Blues” into the unrecorded past. But the star of this show is the nine-minute album closer, Fred Neil and Dave Van Ronk’s "Green Rocky Road", a fantastic group performance that sounds very much live in the studio and features superb fiddle playing from Seth Lakeman and one of those great Van Morrison vocals that make you forget all the bad things in life. That takes some doing these days. Which makes it a bit of a classic.

@CummingTim

It’s a joy to hear him like this, and with this repertoire, the music he heard as a teenage

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Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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