You Win Again
Van Morrison, never the most predictable of performers, takes yet another odd turn with You Win Again, a collection of rootsy duets with one Linda Gail Lewis. And who is this belter who holds her own while sharing the mic and billing with Van the Man on cuts ranging from Hank Williams's "Jambalaya" to Stephen Foster's "Old Black Joe" to John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillen"? Turns out she's the sister of Jerry Lee Lewis; in fact, Morrison came across her at a Jerry Lee convention in Wales. The unlikely twosome were soon rushing through live studio recordings of a bunch of country, blues, and R&B favorites backed by a rockin' combo. Coming as it does on the heels of Morrison's for-the-fun-of-it Skiffle Sessions, You Win Again signals Morrison's continuing impulse to wallow joyfully in the music of his youth. It's actually superior to The Skiffle Sessions, and while it won't make anyone forget Astral Weeks, so what? There's no reason Morrison fans can't have as much fun listening to You Win Again as their hero apparently had making it. --Steven Stolder
The Devil, Me, and Jerry Lee and You Win Again
Real Life Rock Top 10
1/2) Linda Gail Lewis, "The Devil, Me, and Jerry Lee" (Longstreet) & Van Morrison/Linda Gail Lewis, "You Win Again" (Mercury)
If you're sick of the broken-arm school of memoir writing, in which self-criticism is magically transformed into self-congratulation -- Adair Lara's "Hold Me Close, Let Me Go: A Mother, a Daughter, and an Adolescence Survived" is a recent example -- this frank ("It's a miracle we're not all more fucked up than we are"), funny ("Jerry Lee would probably not do a double take if he were seated at the Last Supper"), fatalistic ("In Ferriday I could have married a cousin and not even known it") and short (166 pages with big print) look back by Jerry Lee Lewis' little sister is like a good drink at the end of a long day. She can tell a story; she can get out of the way and let a story tell itself. "When I was very young, my mother was always commenting about what pretty little hands I had," she says. "I think it finally got to the point where [older sister] Frankie Jean really had heard enough about my beautiful hands, so naturally, she took me over to the oven and helped me to place them directly on the hot grates inside" -- it's that "to" in "helped me to place them," slowing the description, making it more formal, that makes the moment perfect. It's too bad Van Morrison doesn't know how to get out of the way. He hooked up with Linda Gail at a Jerry Lee convention (she was performing, he was there as a fan) -- but mainly, it seems, to walk all over her. For the blues and rockabilly standards on "You Win Again," he's like the husband at a party telling everyone how great his wife is and then finishing every sentence she tries to start. Maybe someone -- Elvis Costello? Laurie Anderson? Peter Guralnick? -- will hear how good this woman is, as quick and economical as a singer as she is on the page, and find her the time and place to make her own record.