It should come as no surprise that Van Morrison has made an album inspired by skiffle. Van Morrison’s love of skiffle dates back to his childhood. He would hang out at the famed Belfast record store Atlantic Records, where he’d hear early 20th century folk, blues and jazz from the likes of Lead Belly and Jelly Roll Morton. So when he heard Lonnie Donegan’s take on ‘Rock Island Line’ he intuitively understood the music he was creating. Before long, Van Morrison was playing with a skiffle band in school.
Several decades on, Van Morrison now revisits his love of the genre with his new album ‘Moving On Skiffle’, which is out now, featuring the single ‘Streamline Train’, ‘Worried Man Blues’, ‘I’m Movin’ On’ and ‘This Loving Light of Mine’.
‘Moving On Skiffle’ finds him taking a homemade style that exploded across Britain in the mid-1950s and infusing it with a level of sophistication and soulfulness that it didn’t always possess the first time around. The 23-track album goes to the heart of the music Van Morrison has inhabited ever since he was six years old, hanging out in the smoky confines of Belfast’s Atlantic Records. It also contains songs that underline, in their messages on the importance of freedom and living on your own terms, his lifetime philosophy.
Van Morrison says, “I was still in school when I performed with a skiffle band – a couple of guitars, washboard, tea-chest bass. I was already familiar with Lead Belly’s recordings so when I heard Lonnie Donegan’s version of ‘Rock Island Line’ I intuitively understood what he was creating, I knew that it was what I wanted to do. It was like an explosion. This record retranslates songs from that era.
Chas McDevitt’s book is where to start when it comes to the history of skiffle. From the very beginning with Lead Belly and the jug bands laying the foundations through to Lonnie Donegan’s influence, and Chas McDevitt’s skiffle group, it’s all in there.”