A Canadian who hails from the Atlantic coast, Jerry Leger has been a fixture on the Toronto music scene for some while now and Traveling Grey is the fourth album for a young man who is clearly quite a prolific songwriter. Sounding pretty much like Bob Dylan at his most tunefully heartfelt (aroundabout the time of Desire and Blood on the Tracks), Jerry Leger has ten songs here that suggest he's trying every way he can think of to write great, epic folk music. Putting short stories into song, he packs a lot of words into tales that spring from everyday circumstances, achieving mythic proportions in his minstrel's hands. He enjoys wordplay and rhymes that carry echoes of traditional balladry - or of Dylan - but this can become a little awkward at times; "She's a believer/ She's a conceiver" he sings at one point and though Dylan might have got away with that sort of thing, it really doesn't seem to carry any meaning here.
For all that he packs a lot into his songs, he manages to keep the exact situation at the heart of each one ambiguous. I'm never quite sure whether the inspiration for a song has come from personal circumstances, from a slice of life observed or from something he's read about. Mostly, even on the grand emotional sweep of Wrong Kind of Girl, there's a sense of emotional detachment that suggests he's a balladeer, a storyteller - not the anguished soul laying his own heart out for all to see. He makes it sound good, though, having a way with a song that makes it all seem larger than life and rather grand. In the way that he shapes his songs to hark back to old folk styles, it is also nostalgic, a step away from the modern, fast-paced, technology-filled lives that most folk in his likely audience actually live. Well, music is generally some form of escape from the quotidian, and nostalgia works as well as anything. With Ron Sexsmith and Fred Eaglesmith being amongst the fellow Canadians cheering him on, Jerry Leger's going to do very well.
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