Album Review: Roll with the Punches by Van Morrison
Very Good, Based on 4 Critics
Slant Magazine - 80 Based on rating 4.0/5
Van Morrison has long expressed his disinterest in chasing trends. He doggedly pursues his own muse, and in recent decades that’s resulted in albums that mostly stick to his trademark blend of jazz, folk, and Celtic soul. Roll with the Punches is an exception to that rule, his most distinctive album since 2006’s country covers collection Pay the Devil.
For his 37th studio album Van Morrison returns to his roots by celebrating his passion for the blues and the influence it has had on his own 50-year career. Like last year’s Blue and Lonesome by the Rolling Stones, Roll With The Punches offers new interpretations of both well-known and less familiar songs. But as well as 10 covers there are five self-penned songs and, rather than focusing mainly on Chicago blues, Morrison explores the genre’s widely varied expressions.
Van the Man has a great blues voice. He’s got a magnificent sense of rhythm. Morrison knows when to hit the beat and push the song forward and when to glide over the melody. The timbre of his voice may be leathery, but he has an infectious way of transporting the listener through a song from beginning to end.
There are traditionally three or four different Van Morrisons at any given time, depending on the album. His recordings in the ’00s and ’10s have attempted to reflect him from as many musical angles as can possibly fit within 70 minutes: R&B, folk, soul, and blues, sometimes interchangeably and sometimes in thoughtful combinations. It is often difficult to determine, in the course of these records, if Morrison’s relentless swerving between genres is part of a meaningful, collagist design, or if it is just him working through familiar modalities.