Harlan Howard in the 1950s said "three chords and the truth is what makes a good country song" and the phrase has resonated with many artists over the years.
is a fairly popular name for albums. It has been used by Sara Evans (1997), The Ducky Boys (2004), James King (2013) and Anthony David (2004).
Three Chords & The Truth could be considered a companion piece to Keep Me Singing (2016). Both albums are strong explorations of a variety of themes. The songs on both albums are all written by Van Morrison with one song on each co-written with Don Black. Even the cover artwork on both albums has been designed by young graphic designer Justin Helton from Tennessee.
Van sings a duet with Righteous Brothers’ gravel voiced Bill Medley called Fame Will Eat the Soul. They sound great together, but it is patently clear whose voice has weathered better over time.
Up on Broadway refers to the street in San Francisco that leads to City Lights bookstore famous for its beat generation publishing. References to the City Lights bookstore can also be found on Keep Me Singing (2016).
Is Van going to retire from touring? In Bags Under My Eyes he sings, “Well the road just lets me down/Got to get off this merry-go-round … but I’m still out here on the go..when am I gonna get wise?”
All I got is a red guitar, three chords and the truth is a U2 lyric on Rattle and Hum.
The Bouzouki is one of the more unusual instruments played on the album. David Keary is credited with playing this Greek stringed instrument.
Guitarist Jay Berliner appears on 6 tracks. He also played on Astral Weeks in 1968.
Dark night of the soul is an expression that Van has used before in his lyrics. Lots of other phrases he has used previously are recycled throughout this album such as ‘start breaking down’, ‘get off the merry go round’, ‘plans of mice and men’, ‘brand new day’ etc.
Van said in the interview with Leo Green that Bags Under My Eyes is a "take off on Willie Nelson".
You Don’t Understand has a groove that pays homage to Ballad of a Thin Man by Bob Dylan. Many say the songs are very similar.
is supposedly Van’s contribution to the Brexit debate. From a long way away it does seem weird that a nation named Great Britain wants to be controlled by extreme bureaucrats in Brussels.
March Winds in February has the Humphrey Bogart line "here's looking at you kid".
At the end of Bags Under My Eyes Van gives a brief yodel sounding something like "yodelo-ee".
In the song In Search of Grace Van's lyrics seem to indicate that a real person named Grace disappeared from his street in 1967 or 1968. I've done a thorough search (thanks Van!) and can find no reference to a 50 year old missing person case involving someone named Grace. But his lyrics "got to get back to that sacred space, that's why I'm always searching for Grace" seem to point to a spiritual quest.
There aren’t a lot of songwriters who can fit the word skulduggery into a song's lyrics as Morrison does here with You Don’t Understand.
The phrase or concept Dark Night of the Soul first appeared in a poem written by the 16th-century Spanish mystic and poet St. John of the Cross. In The Crack-Up, F. Scott Fitzgerald penned his famous line, "In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o'clock in the morning". Van used the phrase in two of his songs, Tore Down a la Rimbaud and Give Me My Rapture before creating the song Dark Night of the Soul for this album.
Three Chords and the Truth was recorded and mixed at 6 studios. They were Covent (Stroud), Musicbox (Cardiff), Holywood Studio (County Down), Hideout Recording Studio (Las Vegas), Esplanade (New Orleans) and Air Studios (London).
is an incredibly upbeat and hopeful song for someone with a reputation for being a curmudgeon and misanthrope.
In the closing song Days Gone By Van uses lyrics from Auld Lang Syne. The song subtly transitions to the standard's music for these lyrics as well.