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Van Morrison - Moving On Skiffle

  by Nick Dent-Robinson

published: 26 / 4 / 2023

Van Morrison - Moving On Skiffle
Label: Exile
Format: CD


Refreshing and upbeat double CD collection of skiffle, blues and country covers from Van Morrison

The British skiffle craze of the 1950s only lasted a few years but it left a significant legacy. The Beatles emerged from John Lennon's skiffle group, The Quarrymen, and the Bee Gees' origins lay in Barry Gibb's homespun Manchester skiffle players, The Rattlesnsakes. Meanwhile, over the Irish Sea, a young Van Morrison was listening to Lonnie Donegan's huge hit 'Rock Island Line' and was so impressed he persuaded some of his Belfast schoolmates to start their own skiffle group with him as he turned thirteen. He has often referred to skiffle as his first true musical love. On his latest release, 'Moving On Skiffle, 77 year-old Van returns to that first love. It is a double album that puts an affectionate spin on songs connected with the skiffle era – and, unlike his 2000 live album 'The Skiffle Sessions' which featured the great Lonnie Donegan himself as well as jazz icon Chris Barber, this new record isn't just for purists. There are detours into blue-eyed soul and country and Van stamps his powerful personality on all the material right through the album. He is a rich, commanding presence on songs cut with a live feel and a superb backing band that includes guitarist Dave Keary, violinist Seth Lakeman and keyboardist Alan “Sticky” Wicket. There are 23 tracks and the record runs to 95 minutes but, from start to finish, it flows with a smooth immediacy reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen's 'We Shall Overcome' - a 2006 tribute to folk singer Pete Seeger. 'Moving On Skiffle' is much brighter and breezier than Van Morrison's previous two LPs ('Latest Record Project: Volume 1' and 'What's It Gonna Take?') which were loudly critical of Government-imposed Covid lockdown rules and the evils of the media and the music business. The relative light relief of the new release is a welcome change. Elizabeth Cotten's 'Freight Train' is rearranged as a cheerful jazz piece, complete with train whistle - and it is one of several tracks that use railroad images as metaphors for moving on. Another is 'Streamline Train' which was written in the 1930s by bluesman Red Nelson and was a 1950s UK hit for The Vipers Skiffle Group. Other highlights include 'No Other Baby' featuring Van on harmonica, sax and guitar; 'Careless Love' which has a jaunty bluegrass feel – at odds with its murderous themes and 'Gypsy Davy' where Seth Lakeman's energetic fiddle adds a Celtic flavour. Don Gibson's 'Oh Lonesome Me' is adorned with four-part harmonies and there are two Hank Williams covers:- the sad ballad 'I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry' with Dave Keary playing mandolin and lap steel guitar plus 'Cold Cold Heart' - performed as a jumping jazz number. The album ends with 'Green Rocky Road' - a folk-tinged homage to wanderlust that sees Van softly stretching his voice rather in the way he did back in 1968 on his classic album, 'Astral Weeks'. This is a tender finale to a refreshingly upbeat return by Van Morrison – and it is impressive that, at the age of 77, he can still interpret well-loved songs in such a wonderfully distinctive and original way.

Track Listing:-
1 Freight Train
2 Careless Love
3 Sail Away Ladies
4 Streamline Train
5 Take This Hammer
6 No Other Baby
7 Gypsy Davy
8 This Loving Light Of Mine
9 In The Evening When The Sun Goes Down
10 Yonder Comes A Sucker
11 Travelin' Blues
12 Gov Don't Allow
13 Come On In
14 Streamlined Cannonball
15 Greenback Dollar
16 Oh Lonesome Me
17 I Wish I Was An Apple On A Tree
18 I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
19 I'm Movin' On
20 Cold Cold Heart
21 Worried Man Blues
22 Cotton Fields
23 Green Rocky Road

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