Growing up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Van Morrison would hang out at his local record shop, Atlantic Records, and consume all the early 20th century blues, jazz, and folk from the likes of Jelly Roll Morton and Lead Belly playing on the turntables. Celebrating his love of those earlier sounds, Morrison takes on a collection of classic songs in the genre of skiffle folk on his upcoming album Moving on Skiffle, out March 10, 2023.
The 23-track album showcases Morrison’s take on skiffle, a genre of folk music using simple acoustic and improvised instruments, which started in the early 20th century in the U.S. and became popularized in the United Kingdom in the 1950s, following Lonnie Donegan’s 1954 rendition of Lead Belly‘s “Rock Island Line.”
“I was still in school when I performed with a skiffle ban_a couple of guitars, washboard, tea-chest bass,” said Morrison in a statement. “I was already familiar with Lead Belly’s recordings, so when I heard Lonnie Donegan’s version of ‘Rock Island Line’ I intuitively understood what he was creating. I knew that it was what I wanted to do. It was like an explosion. This record retranslates songs from that era.”
In the late ’90s, Morrison also released a live album The Skiffle Sessions: Live in Belfast 1998, featuring Donegan and Chris Barber.
On Moving On Skiffle, Morrison covers folk, blues, country, jazz, and gospel songs, including Woody Guthrie’s “Gypsy Davy,” and “Green Rocky Road,” released by the Dave Van Ronk with The Red Onion Jazz Band in 1963, along with Hank Williams‘ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and “Cold Cold Heart.” Morrison also retitled his version of the old blues song “Mama Don’t Allow” as “Gov Don’t Allow,” a nod to his recent opposition to government interference during the pandemic.
Lead single “Streamline Train” is Morrison’s take on a song originally written by Mississippi bluesman Red Nelson in the 1930s and later made popular by The Vipers Skiffle Group in 1957.
To support the album, Morrison, who released his 43rd album What’s It Gonna Take? in early 2022, will perform a series of shows in London and Belfast, Ireland in March and April of 2023.
Moving On Skiffle track list:
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
Photo: Bradley Quinn / Black Arts PR