Monday, 4 November 2019

Jackie Leven - Lovers At The Gun Club (2008)

To whom it may concern....


Released on 18 August 2008

Running time 50.29

This was an outstanding, inventive and appealing album from the incredibly underrated and much-missed Jackie Leven. It is a packed full of marvellously evocative and thought-provoking lyrics that can take hold of you at any point throughout the album. Leven really was a most gifted songwriter with a real eye for an acute social observation. Even could take humdrum everyday life vignettes and turn them into poetry. He was quite remarkable in that respect, so much so that I find it difficult to compare him to anyone else.


1. Lovers At The Gun Club
2. Fareham Confidential
3. The Innocent Railway
4. The Dent In The Fender And The Wheel Of Fate
5. My Old Home
6. Head Full Of War
7. I've Passed Away From Human Love
8. To Whom It May Concern
9. Olivier Blues
10. Woman In A Car
11. Heart In My Soul                                            

Lovers At The Gun Club is a strangely addictive bluesy rock song, sung largely by Leven's US friend Johnny Dowd. It is a cynical, observational song about the US obsession for many with guns. The more I listen to it, the more I find myself liking it. There is a brief guitar riff in the middle that is lifted from a rock classic, but I can't put my finger on it - something from The Who, I think.

Fareham Confidential is a truly magnificent song that overflows with kitchen sink lyrics about burger vans, rude children and Sunderland fans. You just have listen to it. It is a great song. The Innocent Railway is a slow, acoustic and "brush" drums-backed number with an evocative, vibrato-style Aaron Neville-influenced vocal from Leven. Some sumptuous, subtle harmonica joins the backing to further enhance the ambience, together with more twangy, bluesy guitar.

A great thing about all Jackie Leven albums is the myriad of musical styles that are covered from track to track. Next up is the slow-burning funk and late night jazz-influenced groove of the strangely-titled The Dent In The Fender And The Wheel Of Fate. When the vocals kick in after a couple of minutes a bluesy mysteriousness is added to the song. Johnny Dowd has some more hillbilly spoken parts behind Leven's lead vocal. It is a song that is utterly impossible to categorise. Totally unique and beguiling. The final part of the song has it sounding like The Police.

My Old Home is a beautifully sung number with Leven's voice delivering the moving lyrics just wonderfully. He truly had a great voice, so special. There are echoes of Bruce Springsteen's acoustic material in places on this. Just great stuff. Head Full Of War is a more upbeat, short country-ish number backed by some excellent accordion and piano. I've Passed Away From Human Love is sombre yet uplifting in its inspiration soulfulness. You listen to stuff like this an have to wonder why Leven didn't get more proper critical acclaim than he did. To Whom It May Concern is a short spoken passage over a continuation of the acoustic feel of the previous track, they sort of merge into each other. You could level accusations of pretentiousness at this, but somehow Leven gets away with it, making it sound exceptionally portentous and meaningful.

Olivier Blues is apparently a Leven original composition but it sounds exactly like Little Walter's My Babe. Either way it is a lively, invigorating number. Woman In A Car is an atmospheric piece of slow Leven blues, once again packed full of feeling and images. Heart In My Soul is an emotive and romantic closer to what has been a beautiful album, a thoroughly captivating piece of work. Highly recommended.


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