VAN Morrison talks about his new album Still Rolling With The Punches ahead of his Isle of Wight appearance ....

In the days before rock & roll, the young George Ivan Morrison would sit transfixed as all manner of wonderful sounds emanated from the family radiogram - Leadbelly, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Little Walter, Bo Diddley…

And it is those giants that Van Morrison reconnects with on Roll With The Punches, Van’s 37th studio album - stretching back over a career that takes in the Belfast blues scene of the early 1960s; Hamburg R&B clubs; the pop charts; acclaim from his peers; and his rightful place as a pop legend.

“The songs on Roll With The Punches, whether I’ve written them or not, are all performance oriented. Each song is like a story, and I’m performing that story.”

Roll With The Punches is a fine collection that deserves its place. But as Van reflected on that long road: “The time period I was in, being white, the category I had to be put in was ‘rock’ - even though 90% of my music is influenced by black artists, not white.

“I was aware of country music very early on. There was a guy on my street, we used to call him the Hank Williams Jukebox… So all of this was going on at the same time as listening to jazz records and going to Solly Lipsitz’s shop in Belfast High Street, where my dad used to get these records… Then skiffle, and Lonnie Donegan; Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, came out of gospel into soul; and the way it was relatable to the blues, the way they were singing in church…”

Patrick Humphries