Van Morrison connected with Irish traditional folk perennials The Chieftains for Irish Heartbeat; its ten tracks comprise of eight traditional Irish tunes and two reworkings of traditionally oriented Van Morrison songs. As much as Van Morrison is connecting with his Irish roots in tackling traditional fare, he’s also bringing his worn, R&B influenced, vocal cords to Irish Heartbeat, bringing a unique spin to these songs.
At the same time, Van Morrison’s aged yelp isn’t as well suited to the slower songs here – ‘Carrickfergus’ and ‘My Lagan Love’ both drag. Van Morrison’s two originals, ‘Irish Heartbeat’ and ‘Celtic Ray’, drawn from his early 1980’s albums, fit in well with the time-tested classics. The best moments of Irish Heartbeat are the upbeat Irish pub songs like ‘Star of the County Down’ and ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’, which rollick along gleefully with Morrison’s enthusiastic vocals and The Chieftains’ authentic backing.
Irish Heartbeat is often fun, but by definition it’s a side-note to Van Morrison’s catalogue.