Two CDs for the price of one from prolific songwriter Jackie Leven.
Meet Jackie Leven. A fifty-nine year old ex heroin addict who has been writing and performing a mix of Bluesy Scottish soul for over thirty years. Releasing five albums with his original punk band Doll by Doll, he now performs as a solo artist, and while he may have never reached the twinkling heights of chart topping stardom, he has had a legion of loyal fans for years. They were known as ‘The haunted valley’, an appreciation society which published a quarterly magazine complete with a CD of previously unrealised material. The group has since disbanded but the albums still exist. Ready for a fresh audience to venture into the world of Jackie Leven, and it’s certainly worth the journey.
The doubleheader CDs "Barefoot days" and "Deep in the heart of Nowhere" released 27th of July, have a lot to offer. In a weird way, it’s the second kind of Scottish Folk. The type that shuns the more traditional fiddles, bagpipes and all round generic Saltire flag wavings, in favour of smoother, cooler bluesy leanings. It’s a genre that maybe as of yet, is still to be named. But there seems to be a solid relationship between Scottish folk and bluesy-country and this is because at the heart of each is a need to spin a yarn, or to tell a story. This is what Jackie Leven does best.
It’s not just a collection of well performed songs you get in this bulging sack of acoustic guitar driven ditties. There’s on stage banter and amusing tales in the two CDs each recorded live. And there is a great feeling of intimacy with this. Each strum of a chord echoes around the walls of the venue where it was recorded. You can hear the applause and the chattering of the audience as well as the relationship that Leven has with his eager fans.
Songs like ‘Barefoot days’ and ‘Rain of Kathleen’ display Leven’s deep resonating voice to its fullest while songs like ‘Exit Wound’ (a tale of Elizabeth the first) show his abilities as a prolific and entertaining songwriter. There are some funny tales in this collection as well. Track five on "Barefoot days" ‘How he met Joni Mitchell-Matt Monroe and the chip packet’ is sure to raise a smile.
This is a doubleheader album for a new generation of folk lovers. It is specifically designed for a fledgling group of new fans who will either love what they hear and lap it up or enjoy it for a few plays and leave it at that. Overall however, "Barefoot days" and "Deep in the heart of nowhere" are interesting, enjoyable and significant enough to be re-released.