Leave it to Canadian songwriter, Jerry Leger, to ask an appropriate question of our times, in that simple Canadian way, as an omnipresent pandemic, eastern European war, divisive politics and more fill our collective days with pain. Taken from the new album ‘Nothing Pressing’ due out on March 18th on Latent Recordings, ‘Have You Ever Been Happy’ gets your eyebrows up quickly with its catchy, rootsy rhythm and soulful, introspective lyrics. And like a day-in-the-life, the winter snowfall in Ontario, or the Covid distancing, it inspires Leger and his musical cohorts to break free of the mundane isolation to enjoy some truly Canadian 5-pin bowling normalcy at Toronto’s historic Shamrock Bowl. This is a sing-a-long-with-the-band indoor hangout, in the cinéma vérité -style that might make you jealous these days. Pizza, bowling and great music – a true trifecta! The unexpected delight here is in the lovely optimism inflected into Leger’s original writing, by backing vocalist, Angie Hilts. And she’s frankly the perfect fit to lift us from Leger’s heady, philosophical lines, and Dylan-esque seriousness. I want more of their dual vocals, and as I dig that distorted guitar solo, I start to wonder, if we can be…happy…again.
Such a vintage visual nostalgia is added beyond this crisp, folk-rock song production, as the Director, Colin Medley, shot this footage on 16mm film which just works so well. According to Medley, “The concept for this video was simple: show everything leading up to a standard music video type performance, without really showing the performance at all. I think we were all feeling like making something fun and casual, and showing off the sense of camaraderie among friends who haven’t been together in a while. The clincher for me was when Jerry mentioned he lived across the street from a bowling alley. From there it came together in about 5 seconds.”
As we come out of that fantastic guitar solo, Leger sings the last verse: “Crashing bowling pins, and shattered tempered glass. Some we lose, some we win,” and you can’t help but marinate on his adept use of social analogy, the use of metaphor and stream-of-consciousness imagery. Through the fun, vintage-feel of this video, I am left with more questions – but with a smile on my face. That is the job of a great songwriter, and Leger has done well here, showcased nicely by Medley’s creativity.