One of several old duffers who still push out records now and again (see also Dr John, Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan), Van Morrison’s effective harnessing of the blues for his own ends has never known limits.
On Down The Road he’s back in fine style and each song is a little gem. Their basic blues structure ensures that originality is in short supply, but presence, unique vocal and musical style and, goddammit, the man’s canon of work all save him.
Resolutely a troubadour bluesman, his music is – like Costello’s – the kind of musical world you’d imagine a chap clad in a tweed jacket with elbow patches, who drives an old Rover and smokes a pipe, would inhabit. It is an adult world of thought, process, travel and talent and it is as far removed from the saccharine-swept pop charts of today as it could be. Intelligent and incisive lyrics sit happily alongside performances from his band that seem destined to make the listener smile. And for this reason, this album will sell. After all, Van Morrison always does.
First single Hey Mr DJ begs the jockey of the title to “play me something slow/play me the songs/for the lonely ones/play me something/that I know” and it instantly pits Morrison against the banale and the bland. We even let a somewhat bilious brass and tremolo interlude pass by without batting an eyelid.
If anyone wonders what keeps someone going for as long as he has in the music world, they need only consider that he’s written hundreds of songs, all of which earn him money enough to continue to enjoy the trappings of a celebrity lifestyle.
And he’s clearly lost none of his energy – there are no less than 15 tracks here, and not a duff one amongst them. How many recent albums can you honestly say the same about? Long live Van The Man.