What possesses a young person to pick up an acoustic guitar and write a song? One reason is certainly the eternal desire to find the ideal lover, although the inherent failure in doing so remains an equally powerful motivator. This is how life’s hardest lessons are learned, and after the shock, anger, sorrow, bitterness, and fear subside, what we are left with is wisdom.
If there is one quality instilled in Jerry Leger’s songs, it’s wisdom, gained not only from his past five years of life as a troubadour, but also from what led up to that: a childhood and adolescence spent waist deep in the river of North American roots music; a baptism that marked his destiny.
His first mentor, albeit unknowingly, was an uncle, Ronny Rose, who earned his reputation from playing St. John’s, Newfoundland bars. It served him well when, like many of his fellow Maritimers, he landed in Toronto in the early 1970s and was absorbed into its country music scene whose epicentre was, and still is, the Horseshoe Tavern. Jerry also grew up with a Dylan fan for a father and Lennon fan for a mother. On weekend visits to his grandfather, the soundtrack was inevitably Hank Williams. By age 12, he had already realized that these were his teachers.
“I wrote my first song on a topic yet to be experienced, but I had learned from all these passed down records I was listening to and studying,” he says. “These were the artists that I wanted to be like, as if I was lost in my own little world, no matter what year I was supposed to be living in.”
TRAVELING GREY is Jerry Leger’s fourth album and finds him poised to indelibly add his name to the roll call that has built Toronto’s international reputation as a singer/songwriter Mecca. One of the members of that elite group, Ron Sexsmith, has said “Jerry Leger is one of the best songwriters I’ve heard in quite some time,” while another, Fred Eaglesmith, has on several occasions invited Leger to share stages with him. In many respects, it is a world that is all-too-real, a side of Canada that has slowly been disappearing in the post-industrial age. The characters that populate TRAVELING GREY provide the testimonial; some have made bad decisions and are living with the consequences, like the narrator of Isabella,while some have simply never had the chance—“Looking out the window of the old hardware store / Twenty-five feels a lot like twenty-four.” (Truth Is All Around You). When everything is at a standstill, every word, glimpse, and touch is packed with potential to be life altering. Leger catches these moments like June bugs, allowing us to briefly observe their gorgeous nuances in the jar before they must be set free back into the ether. That’s the sense we get from songs like Wrong Kind Of Girl, and especially Is He Treating You Good, which cuts as deep as any love song you’ll hear in a long time.
It’s the kind of song-writing that was second nature to the artists who defined country music’s golden era of the 1950s and early ‘60s, and one of them, Nova Scotia’s Hank Snow, is surely smiling somewhere knowing that Leger has written a song as bawdy and rollicking as East Coast Queen.
“Whenever I write, I’m just dipping into myself or keeping my ears and eyes open,” Leger says. “I study conversation, pay close attention to detail.”
“His genuine talent and songwriting is an example of what has been a part of the WSM playlist for many years.”
WSM Radio, Nashville
“One of the best songwriters I’ve heard in quite some time.”
“Hums to the tune of possible legendary status.”
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