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School Daze

Jackie Leven - Straight Outta Caledonia

Jackie Leven - Straight Outta Caledonia

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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-travelled musician who began making psychedelic, progressive music in the late 60s before emerging as an epic storyteller full of pathos, humour 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.
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