Van Morrison has donned enough guises over the years -- from bare-knuckled blues brawler to monastery-bound spiritual spelunker -- that it's no longer surprising to find him diving into previously uncharted sonic waters. His predictably unpredictable behavior doesn't, however, put a damper on the thrill he's capable of generating when he enters the zone that he inhabits throughout Pay the Devil, his first full-force foray into old-school country music. The disc, dominated by classic tracks that represent both Nashville tradition and dust-bowl incursion, makes the most of Morrison's inherently plaintive voice, which is put to particularly good use on a weary version of Webb Pierce's edge-of-delirium weeper "There Stands the Glass." Van turns in a suitably shaky take on Rodney Crowell's "'Til I Gain Control Again," a decades-newer composition that echoes the Pierce standard, proving that emotions aren't affected by the passage of time. Most of Pay the Devil is given over to explorations of life's darker corners -- an appropriate choice, since most of country's best music from the '40s through the early '70s explored those regions -- and Morrison sounds like he knows every inch of that territory, rendering his version of "Things Have Gone to Pieces" a worthy bookend for the rendition that George Jones made famous. A bit of editing would have intensified the effect -- the world doesn't really need another version of "Your Cheatin' Heart" -- as would a few more originals (Morrison deals out three here, highlighted by the slinky "Playhouse," which Owen Bradley would no doubt have loved). Even with those quibbles, Pay the Devil offers ample evidence that Van Morrison is still at the top of his game as a singer, an interpreter, and a soul shaman.
Performance CreditsVan Morrison Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Vocals
Geraint Watkins Piano
Mick Green Guitar
Bobby Irwin Drums
Ian Jennings Double Bass,Acoustic Bass
Bob Loveday Violin
Paul Riley Electric Bass
Nicky Scott Electric Bass
Fiachra Trench Strings,Background Vocals
Aine Whelan Background Vocals
Karen Hamill Background Vocals
Crawford Bell Background Vocals
Olwin Bell Background Vocals
Johnny Scott Guitar,Background Vocals
Paul Godden Dobro,Guitar,Steel Guitar,Weissenborn
Leon McCrum Background Vocals
Johnny Scott Guitar
Cavin Wright Strings
Technical CreditsBill Anderson Composer
Rodney Crowell Composer
Art Harris Composer
Ken Harris Composer
Leon Payne Composer
Van Morrison Composer,Producer,Audio Production
Webb Pierce Composer
Walter Samuel Engineer
Fiachra Trench String Arrangements
Clarence Williams Composer
Gavyn Wright String Section Leader
Merle Kilgore Composer
Fred Jay Composer
Russ Hull Composer
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Pay the Devil based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
I've been really surprised by Van's incursion in country territories, but not at all disappointed. Country music fits surpringly well to Van's voice and he keeps in great form.
I feel a little sorry for Van Fans who believe this album is a rip-off. Way back when, I bought Them's first album when it was originally released and have been a fan of Van since then. He backslid a few times during the 80's and 90's, but is one artist who has easily stood the test of time with quite a few "classic" albums since the 60's. Since I bought Pay The Devil, I have gone back, with a critical eye, to my Van collection (about 25 or so albums)and sincerely believe this new one is bound for classic status (albeit with a smattering of new, more country oriented, fans). Pay The Devil is a collection of well known, and in some cases, well worn country songs from the 50's or thereabouts along with a brace of Van originals which add a bluesy element to the mix. In nearly every case, these songs are presented with a fresh and intriguing face. Superby arranged, sung and played, these gems soak into your consciousness and get you feeling for the repeat button. However, if you are irreversibly turned off by country music, it may best if you wait until his next album. On the other hand, if you would like to explore the roots of much of today's rock and roll and neo-traditional country music, this would be an excellent "toe in the water". It may then lead to a journey which leads to the heart of American country and roots music: Hank Williams, Webb Pierce, Ray Price, Lefty Fizzell and so on. Ample reward for listening closely to Van's newie.
This CD is like nothing Morrison has ever done before. Frankly, I wish I had listened before I bought it. It comes across as an attempt to get money out of long time fans. I didn't think to much of his last CD either, but this one really sucks.
The Country Music Channel had video of 4 of these songs. Seeing helped appreciate the excellence of his musicians and tne mood of the old time songs. While "My bucket has a whole in it" was not one of them, it makes the CD that much more fun. Morrison deserves to sing anything he likes! He and his band put it together to charm us all.