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Van Morrison

Pay the Devil – 2006 (Lost Highway)

Reviewed by Dawn Pomento

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CDs by Van Morrison

If a lesser performer shuffled newly penned songs into a stack of classics by the likes of Rodney Crowell and Webb Pierce, it would be pure hubris. But from someone of Van Morrison's stature, it's a quirky homage - as well as evidence of deserved confidence.

That confidence is audible from the moment the CD kicks in with no fanfare, no intro music, just Van Morrison's iconic voice growling "There Stands the Glass." Like the other standards, it's comfortingly familiar without being trite. The best known of the old hits is Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart," an almost inevitable pick.

But the CD must be assessed on two levels: covers and new songs. The title track is one of three originals, all of which hold their own surrounded by standards. "This Has Got to Stop" in particular fits in seamlessly. Still, any cover compilation begs the question "Is it necessary?" Morrison plays it straight and doesn't shed any new light on the old hits, mostly proving that the selections, like "Half As Much," are fine songs no matter who sings them.

For Van Morrison fans, this is a gratifying experience because it further illuminates a multi-faceted performer by showing him in command in an unexpected setting.