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Jackie Leven - The Haunted Year - Summer: Barefoot Days

Jackie Leven, The Haunted Year: Summer

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

STARTING in 1994, revered Scottish singer-songwriter Jackie Leven instigated The Haunted Valley, an appreciation society which published a quality quarterly magazine and released an annual album, mostly live in content, which was limited to members of the society.

Alas, it is no more – its existence slowly nibbled to death by the appetite of the internet, its content now to be found in cyberspace as the many superb monthly columns to be viewed at Leven’s website.

However, the fruits of some of those endeavours are also now available on the 2-disc release of Jackie Leven – The Haunted Year, which comprises Barefoot Days and Deep In The Heart Of Nowhere.

Both records contain a mix of specially recorded studio tracks, Jackie’s often humorous stories and observations, and driving live sets.

The live section of Barefoot Days was recorded at the Greys in Brighton and includes some nicely observed tales, one of which looks at the difference between Vikings and Scotspersons, and one is an account of a meeting with his right-on staff group at his holistic addictions charity The Core Trust, in which he involves them in a discussion about ‘Hitler’s Henchmen’ asking them if it would not be more politically correct to call them ‘Hitler’s line.

It also contains a wonderful anecdote about Leven’s chance night out with Joni Mitchell and song highlights such as the dusky Desolation Blues and the observational Washing By Hand.

Of the studio tracks, the epic ballad Barefoot Days imagines death as a figure which arises mysteriously from the earth at the time of one’s birth and begins to track your days, drawing ever closer, and how your sense of this stalking becomes more acute and jagged as time goes by. It’s dark, sombre, yet strangely hypnotic.

Highlights on second CD Deep In The Heart of Nowhere, meanwhile, include tender opening track Rain of Kathleen, and the eerie paradox ballad Nottamun Town which contains arguably some of the best guitar-work on both collections. Working Man’s Love Song is also pretty inspiring in its inimitable kind of way.

Leven may be an acquired taste, but by virtue of his fine sense of humour and talent for delivering easy listening folk songs, he’s one that’s certainly worth becoming acquainted with.

Download picks: Barefoot Days, Desolation Blues, Washing By Hand, Rain of Kathleen, Working Man’s Love Song, Nottamun Town

Track listing:
CD 1

  1. Barefoot Days
  2. Billy Ate My Pocket
  3. Names Of Famous People/On The Train
  4. Stopped By Woods On A Snowy Evening
  5. How He Met Joni Mitchell/Matt Monroe And The Chip Packet/Dirty Underpants
  6. Washing By Hand
  7. Desolation Blues
  8. Scots John and the eyelash
  9. Exit Wound

CD 2

  1. Rain Of Kathleen
  2. Nottamun Town
  3. Intro/Wobbly Grapefuit
  4. Universal Blue
  5. Shit In Your Garden
  6. Regional Forms Of Complaint/New York Plugger
  7. Marble City Bar
  8. Bethesda Chip Shop
  9. Single Father
  10. Little Bird
  11. Working Man’s Love Song
  12. Paris Blues/Down By The River