Van Morrison / Linda Gail Lewis

You Win Again

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Van Morrison has always been eccentric, but as he grows older, he seems to get more comfortable with his eccentricities and doesn't strain as hard to be distinctive. That's why it seems natural to have two albums in one year be as willfully individual as The Skiffle Sessions and You Win Again, a duet album with Linda Gail Lewis. In all honesty, in 2000, nobody but Jerry Lee Lewis fanatics really remembered that his sister Linda Gail is a talent in her own right, but Morrison had a soft spot for her and decided to record a full album with her. It's a modest affair, sporting only one Morrison original ("No Way Pedro") and relying heavily on Jerry Lee's catalog, opening with four songs inextricably associated with his Sun recordings. But, if this is a tribute album, it's only because this music is in the same spirit as those great recordings. Not everything here is associated with Jerry Lee, but Linda Gail's piano is reminiscent of her sibling, and both she and Morrison have the same fearless spirit as the Killer, easily making these songs fit their voices and blur the distinctions between R&B, blues, country, and rock & roll. Best of all, this is never a conscious decision; they're just pounding out a bunch of songs they love. You Win Again sounds like it was knocked off in one afternoon by a bar band that knows each other so well, they can anticipate each other's next move. It wasn't, of course, but that's the highest compliment it can be paid. No, it's not a major work in Van's catalog, but it's hard not to smile when listening to it, just like The Skiffle Sessions. It's a roots effort that never sounds studied -- just easy, welcoming, and thoroughly enjoyable.

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