Gubberock On Jerry Leger, Jerry Leger On Neil Young!

Jerry Leger – Songs From The Apartment (album 2020/2021)
Neil Young – American Stars ‘n Bars album (album 1977)

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Gubberock has hijacked Jerry Leger from Canada to write about an album by another Canadian, Neil Young. But first a few words about the new vinyl, «Songs From The Apartment», by Jerry Leger. Jerry Leger is one of the very best songwriters around these days, and he has that soulful voice that is immediately recognised. Jerry Leger enjoys great respect among songwriting colleagues. Ron Sexsmith is both a fan and a friend, and Michael Timmins from Cowboy Junkies has produced his latest studio album. Jerry Leger was the artist most played by my streaming service last year, though I also have some of his records on LP’s and more to come!

I have not asked Jerry, but I imagine that Jerry was born to travel, meet new and old friends. A slightly restless soul. So when the world shut down a little over one year ago, and he was on his way to a European tour, it must have been a big blow, also for him. «Time Out For Tomorrow», to quote the title of his latest studio album from just a few months earlier, a great album he was going to promote. But of course he made the best of it: A year ago, he held seven online concerts, seven nights in a row. The count showed that during these evenings he had played 71 different songs of his own and 14 cover versions. No two evenings were alike. Wonderful stories about his own and others’ music. This says something about the scope of his artistic work.

About the same time, he recorded the album «Songs From The Apartment», a low-fi recording. Jerry alone with guitar or piano. In his review below, he writes that artists like Neil Young and Bob Dylan can succeed with under-produced albums. They have the songs and the passion they need. One can safely add that Jerry Leger with «Songs From The Apartment» proves that he is part of this exclusive club. The songs on the album are actually leftovers from previous recordings. And that says quite a lot. «You & Louise», «Poor Man’s Farewell» and «Katie Come Back» have such gentle but insistent qualities that for me it is obvious to think of songs like «The Bridge» and «Journey Through The Past» with Neil Young. These days, the vinyl version of the album is out, and it also has a bonus track, also a single release on its own, that is in about the same class, «Sweep It Under The Rug». The other 7 songs are not completely gone either, to be modest.

Photo: Laura Proctor

Jerry Leger has released albums in several different genres; folk, rock, country, punk. Common to all are the solid songs. One of my biggest musical highlights last year happened digitally. From his apartment, Jerry could tell that now he was going to play a song Svein Øvregård and Tormod Reiersen had suggested «John Lewis». 7-8 minutes of musical nirvana. Everything broadcasted through a mobile phone. So when Jerry Leger again makes an attempt to come to Norway in April next year, I will be the annoying guy who shouts «John Lewis» throughout the concert. Of course not.

At the bottom of this article, I have a playlist of 20 fairly random songs, but all strong, from Jerry Leger’s entire 16 year album career. Upps, 26 songs!

Follow this link and have a closer look at «Songs From The Apartment» and other releases by Jerry Leger, including a deluxe version of his recent and great studio album from 2019, «Time Out For Tomorrow».

But now: Jerry Leger about a strong record by Neil Young!

Jerry Leger On Neil Youngs’ American Stars ‘n Bars (1977)

I wanted to say a few things about a favourite Neil Young record of mine. My feelings are that every Neil record released from 1969’s «Everybody Knows This is Nowhere» to 1979’s «Rust Never Sleeps» are great or near perfect for my tastes (many highlights and more great records after that of course too). One that I don’t hear too many folks talk about is 1977’s «American Stars ‘n Bars». From the album cover, you know you’re in-store for a fun hangout with some drinks (note the Canadian whiskey bottle on the front). I feel like “The Big Lebowski” (a favourite movie of mine) took note of this cover. Know the scene?

 The first song (and one of my favourites) “The Old Country Waltz” sets the mood and feel for Side 1. He sings “in that empty bar echoing off the walls” and that’s the sound and picture I paint in my mind. It sounds like they’re on a small stage in an empty room, like we’re listening to them soundcheck. This is a song I’ve covered and was also a favourite of one of my best pals, Sean, who we lost last year. Great lyrics! I think of Sean whenever I hear it or sing it. The third track, “Hey Babe” has a real comforting sound for me. I can’t really explain it but it takes me to the same place that other songs like The Beatles “Yes It Is” takes me. Also, listen for Ben Keith’s simple but beautiful solo. 

“Bite The Bullet” has a great Canadian reference to Charlottetown, PEI and us Canucks are always hanging off of these references, so we’re not forgotten! Some Canadiana for you. I love Neil Young’s solo in this too, one of my favourite Neil solos. The whole feel of Side 1 has a nice natural quality and Neil’s singing and playing is perfect. It’s what I wanna hear. I feel like I’m just hanging out with them. Neil is the most successful at getting away with under-produced recordings because he makes up for it with passion, delivery and conviction. Not that they sound under-produced to me. Bob Dylan is the other guy that showed me you can make brilliant records like that. You need passion, conviction, good songs and be able to let go.

Photo: Laura Proctor

Side 2 begins with a cut from the shelved Homegrown record, “Star of Bethlehem” featuring Emmylou Harris on harmonies. Beautiful song and recording. We also have a few Crazy Horse recordings, including the huge “Like A Hurricane”, take 1, when the band thought they were only rehearsing the tune. This is the great thing about Neil Young, he chose this take because it was real, it had the magic, it stayed on the rails, though a little shakey, it made it to its destination. I apply this to what I do, even on my last major record “Time Out For Tomorrow”, a few of the tracks were recordings from our rehearsals. They captured what those songs were all about, so why try to chase it? That’s a huge lesson I learned early on from Neil Young. How can you not love the song “Homegrown”? A perfect closer and this is the version I prefer. Crazy Horse and Neil have a sound together, this is a great example of what it sounds like when they’ve reached another planet together.

There’s a great archival clip from 1976 (or 77?) in the 1996 documentary “Year Of The Horse” when they’re all backstage after a show, passing around a joint. They decide to go back out and play an encore. Neil suggests “Homegrown” and the rest of the band gets excited. They’ve reached that place just in time for it!

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