[28 April 2014]
PopMatters Music Editor - Canada
Ignore the cover art for the seventh album by Toronto, Canada’s Jerry Leger’s seventh studio album, Early Riser. It is clearly ugly – as in “Pretty Girl in an Ugly World”, one of the songs off of that effort – and doesn’t do justice to the contents to be found within. It turns out that Early Riser is a commanding and astounding listen, bad cover art be damned. Produced by Michael Timmins of Cowboy Junkies fame, and released on that outfit’s independent label, Early Riser is the kind of record that makes you want to stand up and pay attention. Sounding a little like a Bob Dylan, just without the nasally whine of said artist, there is hardly a duff track to be found within Early Riser. In fact, for all its country-cum-blues inflected songs, of which there are 10 tracks in all, it’s the sort of thing that makes you love music in all of its ragged glory. It’s quite something to hear, and makes you wonder why we haven’t heard more of said artist, bad cover art be damned.
Opening cut “Factory Made” talks about the failure of the Canadian dream, whatever that might be. But the album is full of surprises, such as how “Bad Ole Dog” seamlessly bleeds into “She Ain’t My Woman and I Ain’t No Woman’s Man”. Across these gently strummed acoustic ballads, along with the more swampy and bluesier numbers, “One More Bad Penny” is a stand-out. (Ignoring for the fact that the penny has been phased out of Canadian currency this past year). All in all, Early Riser is a surprising record – surprising in how it is so strong and so willing in emotion. This is a record that moves from strength to strength, and wants you to effortlessly replay it on a continuous loop. I can’t get over how confident Leger is as both a vocalist and a songwriter, and I can only wish that someone at the label had come up with a better way of representing him, as that cover art might throw off interested parties. Early Riser might appear and disappear without much of a trace, but that would be a shame if so. This is a record with a certain inflection of strong songwriting, and it would be a shame that someone might take a pass on this thinking that it is something of ordinariness. This is clearly an LP with a sense of direction, and strong songwriting, and it would be something of an ashamed passing thought to think that someone might pass on this thinking that it would be little more than a cheap trinket. Early Riser is strong output, and deserving of any laurels and accolades thrown its way.