Van Morrison, Lonnie Donegan & Chris Barber – The Skiffle Sessions – Live In Belfast (2000)

FrontCover1The Skiffle Sessions – Live In Belfast 1998 is a live album by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison, with Lonnie Donegan and Chris Barber, released in 2000 (see 2000 in music). Lonnie Donegan had played with the Chris Barber Jazz Band when he had his first hit with “Rock Island Line”/”John Henry” in 1955. He had been a childhood influence on Van Morrison, who had first performed in his own skiffle band with schoolmates when he was twelve years old in Belfast, Northern Ireland. This was Donegan’s first album in twenty years, reviving his career until his death in 2002.

Recorded on 20 and 21 November 1998 at Whitla Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland. In 1977, Morrison had discussed recording an album of skiffle music with Dr. John, “because I started off in a skiffle group and there must be millions of other musicians who also began their careers playing that kind of music…” In preparation for this recording, he went to see Donegan perform and invited him to dinner and after a second meeting they arranged to record the sessions live. Dr. John, who was playing in concert in the city’s Ulster Hall the same evening, arrived toward the end of the recording to play piano on the final few tracks. (by wikipedia)

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Van Morrison probably chose to give a pair of skiffle concerts in November, 1998 not because he was nostalgic, but because he has genuine love for this music. At least, that’s the impression The Skiffle Sessions gives. It’s a cheerfully old-fashioned yet curiously fresh album. By skipping “Rock Island Line,” the style’s best-known tune, and emphasizing the music’s foundation in American folk, blues, and jazz, they wind up revitalizing skiffle while paying homage to it. Yes, this may be corny at times, yet it’s a clever, diverse record. They delve into blues, letting Barber have a Dixieland trombone solo on “Frankie and Johnny,” invite Dr. John to play some New Orleans on “Goin’ Home” and “Good Morning Blues,” haul out Jimmie Rodgers’ “Muleskinner Blues” and Leadbelly’s “Goodnight Irene,” paying tribute to both country and folk. Only “Don’t You Rock Me Daddio” fits the clichés of skiffle, and here it’s only one side of a rich, generous collection of roots music.

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Some might say that this multifaceted approach to skiffle is revisionism, but it isn’t; skiffle itself was a hybrid, drawing from all sorts of American roots music but given an endearing twist by idealist British musicians, who loved the American myth as much as the music. The Skiffle Sessions captures this love of myth and music, while being a hell of a good listen. Morrison’s career has been idiosyncratic and unpredictable, but nothing has been quite as surprising as this. Really, there’s no reason why a skiffle album released in 2000 should be as irresistible as this, but Morrison, Donegan, and Barber bring such heart and love to this music that it’s hard not to be charmed. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)

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Personnel:
Chris Barber (vocals, trombone, bass)
Lonnie Donegan (vocals, guitar)
Paul Henry (guitar)
Chris Hunt (bass)
Van Morrison (vocals, guitar)
Nick Payne (harmonica, saxophone, background vocals)
Nicky Scott (bass)
Big Jim Sullivan (guitar)
Alan “Sticky” Wicket (washboard, percussion)
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Dr. John – piano on 03. + 04.)

Promo EP

Promo EP

Tracklist:
01. It Takes A Worried Man (Traditional) 3.40
02. Lost John (Traditional) 3.33
03. Goin’ Home (Dvořák) 3.08
04. Good Morning Blues (Leadbelly/Lomax) 2.52
05. Outskirts Of Town (Razaf/Waller) 4.20
06. Don’t You Rock Me Daddy-O (Traditional) 1.51
07. Alabamy Bound (DeSylva/Green/Henderson) 2.22
08. Midnight Special (Traditional) 2.53
09. Dead Or Alive (Guthrie) 2.33
10. Frankie And Johnny (Traditional) 4.31
11. Goodnight Irene (Leadbelly/Lomax) 2.46
12. Railroad Bill (Traditional) 1.57
13. Muleskinner Blues (Rodgers/Vaughn) 3.06
14. The Ballad Of Jesse James (Traditional) 3.07
15. I Wanna Go Home (Traditional) 3.46

CD1

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