Jackie Leven

Lovers at the Gun Club

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Within his continuing prolific run of albums, Lovers at the Gun Club is one of Jackie Leven's best. Considering that he is several notches in quality above many of his million-selling singer/songwriter brethren, that should be taken as a recommendation. Although it would be too much to ask an artist of his creative drive to come up with all kinds of always "perfect" albums, he does provide great songs on each release, and this is one with more than usual. Other points of continuity also remain: his American friend Johnny Dowd is present on the opening title track, doing the lead vocal in his characteristic drawl, setting up a classic "badlands" atmosphere. Elsewhere there is the usual room for poetry recital and the continuing generosity of "donating" space at the end of the album to a deserving colleague (this time David Childers with a moving traditional-style country song of mourning, "Heart in My Soul"). Leven's own songs, however, do take center stage on this album, with quite a few highlights. It doesn't matter whether the song is strictly in a traditional (folk/blues) style or an unusual construction full of surprises -- the magic can strike anywhere. That sonorous voice of his remains an impressive instrument, not least in a soul-tinged lengthy masterpiece such as "The Dent in the Fender and the Wheel of Fate." Being a great storyteller, songs like that can encompass a personal perspective as well as an "onlooker" perspective on life. However, a theme of (very fine-tuned) personal nostalgia is preeminent on a number of songs here (like "Woman in a Car" and the masterful "My Old Home" -- one of the best songs imaginable about the irretrievable "old days"). In contrast, "Fareham Confidential" depicts everyday life in vivid detail from the vantage point of a burger stand, again turning even that into sheer poetry. Interestingly, although singing from the perspective of his Scottish homeland (and as the world-traveling troubadour that he also is -- although that's not so much in evidence on this particular album), Jackie Leven continues to sound like one of the best American songwriters one could possibly imagine. More attention would be deserved and this album is a good place to start.

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