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Straight Outta Caledonia

Leven, Jackie

Straight Outta Caledonia

School Daze
LP $24.00

08/13/2021 5060446124093 

RVSN 002 LP 

CD $17.50

08/13/2021 5060446124109 

RVSN 002 CD 

Straight Outta Caledonia is the first commercially available “Greatest Hits” of the outsider songwriter Jackie Leven, an artist who has largely remained in obscurity in his native Scotland despite being one of the greatest wordsmiths – and singers – it ever produced. A well-traveled musician who began making psychedelic, progressive music in the late 60s before emerging as an epic storyteller full of pathos, humor and humanity in the 90s, Leven lived and wrote like many of the fragile, gregarious characters of his songs; large, full of life and empathy. Leven passed away in 2011 after recording 30+ albums under different guises or with his briefly successful New Wave band Doll by Doll. Straight Outta Caledonia is a compilation collated by Night School Records on its Archival label School Daze that seeks to introduce Leven’s music to new generations. 
In an age of isolation, alienation and loss of visceral experience, Jackie Leven’s music can be massive and welcoming. It feels connected to some universal humanity and vibrates with vitality. His songs are often full of tragedy and comedy simultaneously, cutting straight to the heart, often plugging directly into the nervous system of the listener. His lyrics are rich, dense with imagery 
that can veer from apocalyptic to the comically banal in a sentence, with a songwriting panache that can be heavy handed to almost bursting point before skewering the song with a clownish, warm punchline. His productions ranged from Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue style rock band orchestrations with strings and organ as on the epic Ancient Misty Morning or they could be pared down to the purest form of folk song as on Poortoun: Leven on stage alone with an acoustic guitar, albeit played with a mastery of the instrument that he often only hinted at. Musically his sound can bend traditional structures or stay completely confined within them yet still forever push towards an ecstatic release, as on the cinematic Snow In Central Park. 
The most exciting, jaw-droppingly effective tool at Leven’s disposal was his voice. A multi-octave instrument that, though damaged during a savage assault in Fife, he used with flair; he had both a brazen disregard for the rules and a deep humility, all of which is evidenced with every phrasing. A baritone that could flit up through the register – always touched by his gentle Kirkcaldy accent – it’s the prime delivery method for his songs. Leven’s voice enabled him to inhabit the characters in his songs to an uncanny degree, a skill that in turn enables the listener to empathize with them and, subsequently, the singer.  
“I think he is one of the most astonishing lyricists Scotland has ever produced, and in his latter years he was a true troubadour, a balladeer of sad, unsettling and uplifting songs, songs that blossom and bear fruit as you listen to them. Here then is Jackie Leven in all his ripe majesty.”—Ian Rankin

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