After years of hiding under a low-brimmed Stetson and haphazard genre-themed releases, Van Morrison dons an oversize cowboy outfit and turns his gaze to Nashville on Pay the Devil
. The result arrives at an odd crossroads: C&W megahits (Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart" and Kit Carson's "Big Blue Diamonds" among them) delivered with a soulful signature. While the recipe hints at Ray Charles' 1962 Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music
, most of the droopy torch songs here are lifeless. Morrison's reading of Bill Anderson's "Once a Day" has the dreary pluck of a Midwestern Holiday Inn, and when Van adds his famed vocal warble to Patsy's "Half as Much," it brings to mind an Irish tenor sitting on a thumbtack. Loyalists will enjoy hearing him mine nuggets of Nashville gold, but Van Morrison, and these songs themselves, have seen better days.