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Toronto-based, Canada born and raised, singer-songwriter Jerry Leger is well versed in the act of his profession, not least being the school of hard knocks. It hasn’t been easy for Leger; for one Canada hasn’t the catchment area of the likes of Boston, New York or Austin, Texas. He has had to travel far and wide in his home country and beyond to gain a following of any size Sharing venues with the likes of Ron Sexsmith and Latent Recording boss; one of Leger's biggest supporters Michael Timmins (Cowboy Junkies founder member) has helped him gain a foothold in the business. His first recording was in 2005.
His latest album has to be the most adventuress from Leger. Not too many acts release a twin-cd package, with the first titled Nonsense and the second, Heartache the recording offers an excellent insight into his musical style and philosophy. Supported by his band The Situation (James McKie, lap steel, fiddle, electric lead guitar; Dan Mock, Upright, electric bass guitar, backing vocals and Kyle Sullivan (drums, percussion, backing vocals) plus harmony vocals from Angie Hilts an excellent balance is obtained. “Coat On The Rack” starts the release in a gritty, emotion packed restless fashion to ensure the release is immediately up and running. His music lends a nod to rock’n’roll as music of 1960s guitar bands in part come to mind on “Forged Check”. While with a not to be ignored jolting rhythm “Baby’s Got A Rare Gun” contains a likeness to the sharp, explosive Bob Dylan of the 1970s. Interesting. On slowing it down a bunch, there’s bluesy ode “On The Fishing Line”; now here is a song with all the ingredients to become an even bigger song (sounding akin to “Little Red Rooster”), the moody feel of the song is extenuated by some fine, burning electric guitar solos.
Leger attacks from the bell on “The Big Smoke Blues” as a relentless rhythm aids his unyielding vocals, and it’s a winner! On settling down to more bruising heart stirring fare “For Hire” speaks of the Station Wagon he was travelling in breaking down and more. Splashed in fiery lead guitar, and a story that speaks of wild, imaginative subjects the listener feels like he is watching it unfurl from a passing train. “Wedding Dress” is more mellow, reflective and rich in emotion. A huge contrast to the final guitar driven track ”She’s The Best Writer You’ve Never Heard Of ”; awash in mystical lyrics and fire in his belly the hard-nosed playing it is enough to knock the listener sideways. Such the hard, thrusting power of the playing and grit.
Heartache consists of ten songs, and with it lasting a little over 33 minutes the length of the tracks are just perfect. It opens with the nicely rounded “Things Are Changing Round Here”, and gets better. “Troubled Morn” has a killer rhythm run through it from first to last, and with lead guitar added, the restless tune is wall-to-wall winner. Slow measured ballad “It Don’t Make The Wrong Go Away” has him reflect on a crumbling relationship, and him speak of how he would give her anything if he thought it would make her stay. “Another Dead Radio Star” is more of a rhythmic piece, and with some fine electric lead guitar and more fine lyrics the tune is anything but an album filler. Sombre piece “Lucy And Little Billy The Kid” has a dark near mystical feel as his vocals are guided by sensitive piano. Could I detect a faint hint of a Leonard Cohen influence in Leger’s presentation?
The upbeat “The Great Unknown” is another that enjoys a neat groove, and warmth set to win him many an admirer, and with a little sweet fiddle it bounces along admirably. Leger is in reflective mood on “Take The Ashes And Run”. It too enjoys some tasty fiddle, only this time it has a sobering effect as he speaks of some serious heartache. “He’s The Lonely One Now” is stripped back to little other than piano and lap steel (and lead guitar as the song unfolds), and it likewise has a sombre feel. Yet such is the wonderful arrangement the listener can’t help but be snared by it all. Leger’s timing is perfect regards the placement in the running order as the restless mid-tempo inclusion “Buckskin Wall” lifts the mood. It comes just prior to “Pawn Shop Piano”; that has Hilts’ effective vocals join Leger and his beloved piano. It is the type of song, though the vocals are decidedly different Tom Waits or Randy Newman might have done. What a journey, two CDs and there is never a moment I was wishing for a track to end, so I could move onto something else!
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