Over the years, so many great musical talents have allowed their demons to destroy them. From Charlie Parker to Hank Williams, Sr. to Kurt Cobain, you could write a book about all of the musicians or vocalists who were hell-bent for self-destruction. But there are also many artists who have successfully conquered their demons, and when Scottish folk-rock troubadour Jackie Leven recorded Forbidden Songs of the Dying West in 1995, he seemed to be one of the ones who was winning the battle. The former Doll by Doll singer had been a drug addict, but he got treatment for his addiction -- which could have easily cost him his life -- and continued to make valuable contributions to music. One of Leven's finest albums, Forbidden Songs illustrates the connection between the Celtic folk traditions of the British Isles and the Anglo-American folk traditions of North America. Leven is from Scotland, but he doesn't limit himself to Scottish influences, on this reflective, contemplative CD, his inspirations range from American folk-rock to Celtic music (both Scottish and Irish) to British folk. Leven is a superb storyteller, and he reminds us of that fact on such jewels as "Men in Prison," "Lammermuir Hills," and "By the Sign of the Shattered Star." Leven wrote most of the music himself, although the haunting "Leven's Lament" finds him uniting his own lyrics with the melody of Ernest Gold's "Exodus" (a classic that was recorded by the legendary French chanteuse Edif Piaf). For those who have yet to experience the joys of Leven's singing, Forbidden Songs would be a fine starting point.
Forbidden Songs of the Dying West Review
by Alex Henderson