Van Morrison: Three Chords And The Truth

Van Morrison
Three Chords And The Truth
(Exit/Caroline International)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Musicians are usually best when they release music gradually, taking time to craft their art; long distance marathons as opposed to sprints. Someone forgot to tell Van Morrison though.  

The singer-songwriter’s unexpected and remarkably prolific set of recent recordings finds him, now 74, dashing along in an extraordinary creative and fertile clip. Unlike some other ageing musicians’ output, his newest music occasionally stands toe-to-toe with much of his 55 year (!) catalog. Even longtime fans didn’t see this current burst of activity (six albums in four years) and inspiration coming. 

Morrison’s last few releases combined new tunes with freshly rearranged covers of classic and older compositions penned by songwriters as diverse as Cole Porter, Count Basie, Sam Cooke, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Little Walter, Willie Dixon and Bo Diddley. But Three Chords and the Truth features all 14 original songs. Take that Bob Dylan! Even if these won’t likely be remembered like iconic Morrison milestones such as “Tupelo Honey,” “Wild Night,” “Caravan” or “Gloria,” they are far from toss-offs, let alone filler. Based on Van’s duet with the Righteous Brothers’ gravel voiced Bill Medley on the provocatively titled “Fame Will Eat the Soul,” or the first single, the beautifully melodic “Dark Night of the Soul” (noticing a soul theme?), there are at least a handful of tracks that should be included in the next Morrison greatest hits package.

Van always hires talented pros to back him and this group is in sync with his blues/gospel/R&B/roots rocking based sound. He goes Sun-styled rockabilly on the concise, appropriately titled “Early Days”— a tribute to some of his American influences — and stretches out on a handful of selections like the easy, sweet vibe of “Up on Broadway,” “You Don’t Understand” and the closing, reflective “Days Gone By,” all clocking in at over six minutes. Totaling in excess of an hour, the album never feels stretched out or needlessly extended with its expertly crafted, soul infused songs and Van’s energetic performance. 

How much longer Morrison will be touring seems to be answered on the folk/country “Bags Under My Eyes” where he sings, “Well the road just lets me down/ Got to get off this merry-go-round … but I’m still out here on the go..when am I gonna get wise?”

That and other selections reflect on what looks to be the end of his remarkable run (the closing “Days Gone By” throws in a verse from “Auld Lang Syne”) as he reflects, sometimes in a bittersweet tone (“there is no easy way out my friend”), on his extensive time as a headliner in the fickle music industry.  Most would rightly apply “living legend” status to Morrison, yet the spirited way he approaches everything here, makes it seem like he’s decades younger. Based on the vibrant, often vivacious Three Chords and the Truth, he still has plenty of artistic gas left in his tank. 

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