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Van Morrison and Linda Gail Lewis
You Win Again
Exile (

cd cover These two veteran performers churn out a collection of boozy country classics that will be sure to fill any barroom dance floor. It's heavy on the Hank, including the title track, "Jambalaya," and "Why Don't You Love Me." As expected, Morrison and Lewis both wail it out, but neither upstages the other. Lewis' thick, bouncing piano chords are pulled right from her brother Jerry Lee's stylebook. Her voice has a whisky-soaked throatiness that sounds like it's lived in these old songs for a few years. The straightforward nature of the material here leaves little room for Morrison's trademark vocal rhapsodizing, but he more than makes up for it with his meaty harmonies. Some of the tracks ooze into sappy, tears-in-your-beer country weepers (e.g., "Crazy Arms," "You Win Again.") Others are so hokey as to make the listener wince (e.g. "Why Don't You Love Me.") Their cheery, upbeat version of Stephen Foster's "Old Black Joe" is just puzzling. Also puzzling is why Lewis takes composing credit for this one. John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillen" would have been better served as a Morrison solo. Lewis doesn't seem to know what to do with the piano here, so she settles into a repetitive vamp and her tentative vocals are superfluous. Bottom line is, if you're a Van fan, you will probably want You Win Again in your collection. If you are a fan of country chestnuts, you might need to look elsewhere for definitive versions of these songs. - Peggy Latkovich

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