AUK caught up with Canadian Jerry Leger at the tail end of his Euro/UK solo tour in the cosy confines of Glasgow’s Doublet Bar. Last seen over here with his band The Situation almost exactly a year ago, tonight it was just Leger, his guitar and his songbook but he proved to be as entertaining and engaging solo as he was with his mercurial band behind him.
His opening gambit was a cool masterpiece as he ambled out to tune his guitar while the bar was full of audience members buying their half time drinks. As they took their time, so did he. Having tuned up he sat down on the banquette behind him and played as if to himself, the Everlys’ ‘Crying In The Rain’, gradually getting just a little bit louder as the penny dropped and the bar queue dissipated while the audience started to sing along. Having already mesmerised the crowd he then stepped up to the mic and opened with the title song from his latest album, ‘Nothing Pressing’. It’s a gorgeous song, redolent of numerous folky troubadours reaching back to the 60s although their back to the country idea of paradise is upended in this clever song as Leger soon gets bored with his bucolic surroundings.
Leaning heavily on his last two albums throughout the set list, Leger is quite remarkable. Aside from his very attractive vocals and his guitar skills, he totally looks the part of a roving troubadour. There’s more than a hint of the mid sixties Dylan in his appearance and he channels Dylan on the outstanding ‘Underground Blues‘, his guitar capo’d to capture the spiky notes on the recorded version. Other 60s’ troubadours were brought to mind when Leger sang ‘Justine’, a song with a whiff of Phil Ochs around it while the ghost of Leonard Cohen hovered around Leger’s striking rendition of ‘Survived Like A Stone’ which sucked in all of the audience who were extremely hushed as Leger’s voice rang out. ‘Recluse Revisions’, on record a Neil Young like swamp rocker, saw Leger well able to deliver this poignant tale of old rockers reduced to playing cowboy songs in a bar without the aid of his backing band, indeed the poignancy was elevated as he delved into the inherent sense of loss within the song – a phantom limb still able to deliver pain indeed.
In a just world we’d be able to say of Leger’s set that the hits just kept on coming as he thrashed out a rocking delivery of ‘Baby’s Got A Gun’ along with rousing performances of ‘Killing With Kindness’ and ‘Have You Ever Been Happy’, the latter a pop hit just waiting to be discovered. On that note, he sang a cautionary tale for anyone hoping to make it in the music industry on ‘Factory Made’, dredged up from his 2014 album ‘Early Riser’. Midway through the set Leger paid tribute to the recently departed Gordon Lightfoot, not via a cover but talking about how the sound and production of Lighfoot’s early albums influenced him. The one cover of the night came via an encore as he sang an obscure Beatles song, ‘Yes It Is’ which, had he not announced its provenance, would have come across as another excellent Jerry Leger song.
With fans such as Ron Sexsmith singing his praises, it was a privilege to see Leger in such an intimate setting. Here’s hoping he rises above the fate of the erstwhile bar room band portrayed in ‘Recluse Revisions’.
Tonight’s support act was The Folk Drama, the latest project from Scottish singer songwriter Aaron Wright. With close harmonies, shared oh so closely around the one mic, the duo performed a short set of Americana tinged songs such as ‘Sunset Chaser’ and the Proclaimers like ‘Go On Yourself‘ (tonight given its Scots title, Gaun Yerself).