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Van Morrison Goes Country On <i>Pay The Devil</i>

Famed Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison is known for taking chances with each new album. He's recorded rock, blues, R&B, jazz and traditional Irish folk music, all with great success. Morrison's latest endeavor takes him in a country music direction.

With Van Morrison's solo career approaching 40 years, fans can finally take heed in knowing that, yes, Van can sing anything, including country.

Because country music shares a common bond with folk and blues, it's no surprise that at age 60, Van Morrison decided to go country on Pay The Devil. But of course, no one knows for sure that if Van's "going country" also means he'll be wearing a cowboy hat behind the wheel of a pickup truck. Not likely.

It's easy to see why a song sung by Van Morrison is so accessible. No matter what the style, even country, they always sound as if they're being performed for the first time. One of the album's originals "This Has Got To Stop" is no exception; fresh and simple and perfectly suited to Morrison's world-weary temperament.

You don't have to be an expert to recognize one Hank Williams tune. Singing "Your Cheatin' Heart," Van Morrison almost makes you forget that his first love was jazz.

Van credits his father, a shipyard worker, for introducing him to American jazz and blues at home in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He learned to play guitar, saxophone and harmonica, and after stints in various Irish rock bands, he went solo. He launched his career playing "blue-eyed soul," a combination of jazz and R&B with a touch of Celtic folk that has sustained him through rock and roll's peaks and valleys.

A master of reinvention, Van Morrison would be the first to admit that he himself is awestruck. His appreciation of America's oldest music, from jazz and blues to folk and gospel, has inspired countless recordings, some that have sold in the millions and others that fell short of the Top 100.

No matter what the outcome, Van Morrison forges ahead. And while some may scratch their head and ask, "Van Morrison has a country album?", others will applaud his mastery of such long-forgotten standards as "Big Blue Diamonds."