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5 out of 10
First under the guise of John St. Field, then in experimental late '70s/early '80s punk band Doll By Doll, and finally under his own name, Scottish folk musician Jackie Leven has released a lot or records. This is his 31st, and he's getting more and more prolific; 23 of those came out between 1994 and 2007 (Two under the pseudonym Sir Vincent Lone). So it's unsurprising, with so many songs in a short space of time compared to most other artists, that the standard sometimes slips. And, even though music supposedly transcends this kind of thing, it's also unsurprising that music of a 58 year old doesn't automatically appeal to a 21-year-old reviewer.
Sentimental, easy listening slowie 'The Innocent Railway' is the kind of thing listeners to BBC local radio might get sexy too, and like that procedure it's dragged out and occasionally uncomfortable, as is the syrupy '70s funk/country hybrid of 'The Dent In The Fender.', or the budget blues of 'Oliver Blues'. The closing brace of 'Woman In A Car' and 'Heart In My Soul' could be Boyzone ballads if they weren't so dreary.
There are some moments of timeless quality though, especially the title track and opener, 'Lovers At The Gun Club'. It's got a steady, driving build up akin to a cosmic Spiritualized number, and some killer couplets sung by country singer Johnny Dowd (Whose voice is a creepy mixture of Tom Waits and David Carradine): "Teenagers practicing fascist salutes/They got the tattoos but they don't got the boots", and "I rule my house with a loveless fist/It flaps around on the end of my wrist" are two great images.
Leven's own voice - deep, like a Scottish Johnny Cash - makes it's first appearance on 'Fareham Confidential', a dreary, Lowry-like urban scene infused with a 'Boy Named Sue' style silliness, mainly revolving around chilli sauce: "It was way too hot/And I walked away in pain". He shares some of Cash's pondering spirituality too; on the brassbound kitchen sink drama of 'My Old Home' ("Kingdom come, Kingdom go/How that works I just don't know"). Also worthy of note is 'I've Passed Away From Human Love', a moving country ballad. It's a bit soppy, but Leven is probably already too busy on album 32 to care for such criticism.
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. Oliver Blues
10. Woman In A Car
11. Heart In My Soul