Jackie Leven - 'Lovers At The Gun Club'

Jackie Leven is a busy bloke. Indeed, his songwriting has been so prolific in recent years that he’s taken to releasing albums under the nom-de-plume Sir Vincent Lone as well as under his own (somewhat amusingly, Vince has also appeared as the support at a number of Leven’s gigs). His twenty-third album since resurrecting his career in 1994, ‘Lovers At The Gun Club’ is a sturdy concoction of bluesy folk that is by turns forebodingly fatalistic and heartrending while also sparkling with a dry, world-weary wit.

After fronting the uncategoriseable punk outfit Dolls by Dolls in the late 70s, Leven set out on a solo-career that was quickly cut short after he was infamously nearly strangled in a brutal random attack in the street. Leaving him with a crushed larynx and shattered will, Leven lost much of the mid-eighties to heroin (along with everyone else) before pulling himself together, founding the drug rehabilitation organisation the CORE trust and relaunching a solo career that has produced the aforementioned stream of albums in a frenetic attempt to make up for lost time.

For this outing Leven has again enlisted the aid of Americana legend Johnny Dowd (having also collaborated on ‘Oh What A Blow That Phantom Dealt Me’), that gentleman lending album opener and title track such smouldering menace that the rest never quite manages to compare. Not that this matters hugely, Dowd having the voice of a man for whom any extremity of human folly no longer comes as a surprise, his matter-of-fact drawl dripping with the traces left by years of bearing witness to the mad, the lost and the lonely. In other words he channels the spirit of Leven’s lived experience perfectly, while providing a foil to the Scottish troubadour’s questing folk.

‘The Innocent Railway’ possesses a lovely simplicity, Leven’s warm tones supported by small touches of harmonica and organ before the song spreads its wings in the radiant chorus, ‘coming down the cold glen / I see a snow storm / blow in from the west’. Things are lifted again with the seedy Dowd-enhanced ‘The Dent In The Fender And The Wheel Of Fate’, while the gorgeously intimate ‘I’ve Past Away From Human Love’ glows with an aching resignation. Then there’s the bitter little ditty ‘Olivier Blues’ which I now can’t get out of my head. Sigh. ‘Lovers At The Gun Club’ isn’t his best, but generally its pretty damn good.