Eccentric, instinctively reclusive, notoriously cranky, disdainful of music-biz conventions, and one of the greatest soul singers and visionaries of the rock era, Van Morrison's had an eclectic, four-decade career spanning R&B, rock standards, blues, trad jazz, Celtic fare, and periodic forays into the mystic. His last studio album, 2006's Pay the Devil (Lost Highway), ventured headlong into country, with covers of Hank Williams, Webb Pierce, and Rodney Crowell tunes doused in pedal steel, country fiddle, and honky-tonk piano, but with Morrison's irredeemably soulful voice setting the tone. In going country, the Belfast-born Morrison again followed the example of his chief influence, Ray Charles—the R&B giant who famously veered into country and western in the early '60s. Like Charles, the Celtic Ray (as Morrison is sometimes known) seizes the country nuggets as his own, and even has a laugh turning Danny Barker's slyly salacious New Orleans jazz-blues ditty "Don't You Feel My Leg," usually sung by a female, into a weepy country tune. A new Van the Man compilation, Still the Top (Polydor/Universal), is out, too, updating the essential Morrison canon from Them's 1964 "Gloria" through 2005's "Stranded." Quite a run.
Thu., Dec. 20, 7:30 p.m., 2007