Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Van Morrison 36: Pay The Devil

Oh great, another year, another Van Morrison album, another label, another… what the?! This sounds like old-time country and western!
And that’s exactly the deal. Pay The Devil is loaded with fiddle, pedal steel, two-step drums, Floyd Cramer-style piano, and lovelorn tunes from the honky tonk. Most of the songs are covers from the pre-rock era, “Your Cheatin’ Heart” being the most familiar one; the main exception is “Till I Gain Control Again”, written in the ‘70s by Rodney Crowell, and previously done by the likes of Emmylou Harris, Crystal Gayle, and Willie Nelson.
His own songs aren’t much to get excited about. The title track is another one of his “how dare you judge me” songs, but at least he doesn’t rant about the copycats in the business this time. “Playhouse” is a country blues that mentions the British monetary system but otherwise repeats the usual clichés. “This Has Got To Stop” reads like a parody, with its burned down houses and castles in the sand, rhyming “understand” with “Newfoundland”, and lines like “I watched you watching me as I watched you walk away from me.” His voice is still his best instrument, and even with all the trimmings, he delivers everything like it’s jazz or soul.
Pay The Devil is a nice change of pace from his other interchangeable releases of late. But if you want to hear Van sing country, you’re better off going back to Tupelo Honey.

Van Morrison Pay The Devil (2006)—3

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