Smart lyrics: check. Characterful vocals: check. Masterful musicianship: check. Sublime songcraft: check. For many listeners, a Jerry Leger album is the very definition of Americana. Since his 2005 debut, Leger has been hugely prolific while managing a remarkably consistent quality in his output. ‘Time Out for Tomorrow’ is no exception, finding Leger and his band, The Situation, in fine form. The album is lean, focused and coherent, both musically and thematically.
It is more direct than previous releases, such as ‘Nonsense and Heartache’, and is immediately engaging. Throughout the record, Leger sings of the ephemeral nature of life, dreams, seasons, places, relationships, industry: all things come and go; all things have an ending. Although Leger’s lyrics can be obscure, ‘Time Out for Tomorrow’ is full of poetry, arresting images and narrative details that capture attention. Great care has been taken over the language; as he sings on the first track and single, ‘Canvas of Gold’: “My head was in the drift smoke // My heart was in the words // Of the poet and the hobo you never heard.” As soon as the drums and guitar kick in on the opener, listeners will know that they’re in for an authentic-sounding treat. The timeless melody and instrumentation are matched by Leger’s socially conscious lines: “Everything was almost decided when we were young // You’ll stay poor like your family before // And I’ll keep hustling.” This is followed by the gently tuneful strum and effective bass in ‘Justine’. Leger explores the complexity of relationships through a series of poetic flourishes: “She gave me a lie and made me like it…Oh, the lights from your distant tower…She took my name and put it in her right-side pocket.” Leger’s gravelly vocal performance on the piano-driven third song, ‘That Ain’t Here’, is gorgeously balanced. This opening trio of songs is an outstanding introduction.
Although it’s all unmistakably Jerry Leger, there’s plenty of variation in tone and pace; from the jangling electric guitars of ‘Tell a Lie’ or the great rhythms of ‘Burchell Lake’ to the slower, melodic ‘I Would’, Leger keeps hooking us in. It’s an album full of highlights. In particular, special mention must go to ‘Read Between the Lines’, on which the tuneful singing, complete with rising, echoing backing vocals, brings to mind ’60s pop and rock, and to the hauntingly beautiful ‘Survived Like a Stone’. On this, Leger’s lovely vocal is buoyed by layers of sumptuous instrumentation: fiddle, autoharp, organ, drums, all masterfully executed. Indeed, the musicianship of The Situation throughout is worth celebrating; particularly noteworthy is Dan Mock on bass, whose excellent work elevates songs like ‘Corner Light’, along with flourishes of Aaron Comeau’s piano.
The album was recorded quickly, capturing a focused, direct vibe, and produced by The Cowboy Junkies’ Michael Timmins, who brings out the warmth of each instrument. If listeners are long-time Jerry Leger fans, then they can look forward to another strong release full of potential new favourites. If you’re new to Leger, then the immediacy of ‘Time Out for Tomorrow’ makes it an ideal album to absorb and introduce the rest of his work. On ‘I Would’, Leger sings: “I wish I was a book you were reading // Honest and too tough to put down,” and, indeed, it’s tough to stop listening.