Sunday, December 22, 2019


When I think of snow and ice, I think of Scotland. And when I think of Scotland, I think of Jackie Leven. Yes, I have mentioned him before in these pages, that being no good reason not to bring him back again. His legacy of recorded material is immense, having been so prolific for his record label that he had to seek different contracts under different names to get it all out. Sadly missed, his brand of celtic soul impacts on and draws inspiration from his home and the characteristics that reminded him of it. Kate Bush may have offered 50 Words for Snow, I swear Big Jackie had 50 songs. Here are a few.

Snow in Central Park

From his full length solo debut in 1994, Snow in Central Park is arguably one of his better known songs, if any had a claim to that right, his appeal the epitome of cult, a world famous superstar only to those in the know. Of course, it wasn't even his solo debut, he having had (at least) two careers ahead of this, firstly as late 60s singer-songwriter John St. Field, and in scary punk/new-wave band Doll by Doll. And then there were the two alongside, Fife balladeer, Sir Vincent Lone and the Kirkcaldy David Sedaris, Jackie Balfour.

None of the below are in chronological order, but all display lyrical nods to the snowier, icier aspects of his oeuvre. Don't get me wrong, he could do songs about rain and wind as well, being no one winter pony. (Actually I jest, for although he could and did, he could also sing uplifting and cheerful songs too. Just less often. And not for today.)

Stopped by Woods on a Snowy Evening (A Robert Frost poem set to music by Leven.)

Your Winter Days

The Wanderer

Lammermuir Hills

Kirkconnell Flow

Washing by Hand

Finally, with all the above coming from his 20 odd studio albums, it is worth a mention is how he took his muse out on the on the road, leaving behind the often lush arrangements and instrumentation. Live it was usually just himself, a burly bear of a man, year round shorts, ripped denim shirt and battered guitar. A masterfully inventive player on that instrument, bringing all sorts of percussive textures to bear, tapping the wood and caressing the strings, the high point always his voice, a majestic croon, beauty from the beast. At one foot a pint glass with the vodka and lemonade he would occasionally seek topping up, at the other a microphone, to catch the constant rhythm of his foot. You can't catch him now, dead these 8 years, but there are a celebration of live albums also out there. The song below is typical Leven, describing the fear men hold inside. The fear men have without love, without a mother, a wife, a partner, and the dark places that such solitude leads, and the tragedy of it all. He knows these men and, if we are honest, so do we, all within us, but for better grace and luck.

Fear of Woman


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