Published Aug 15, 2013Critical darling Jerry Leger drew an impressive mid-week crowd to the Horsheshoe Tavern for the recording of a live album set to be released before the end of this year. With little introductory fanfare he launched into an unreleased song called "Beating the Storm" that showcased his devil-may-care charisma nicely. By "If You Run Away" the crowd was dancing, and they didn't stop until the concise, consistently satisfying set was finished.
"Buddy Holly came to me in a dream last night," Leger said before "My Little Crook" off of Travelling Grey. That's the type of line that might seem hackneyed or silly from a performer less invested, but whatever Leger puts across, he manages to sell. Of the 17 (mostly short) songs performed, this one seemed to distance Leger the most from the twin labels of "folk/roots," as it was delivered with a sneering "Fuck you" petulance that called to mind the vocals of Violent Femmes frontman Gordon Gano in his heyday.
"Need to Know If It's True" was another unreleased tune. This one didn't make the cut on Some Folks Know, indicating just how many great songs this young man has produced. Leger has said he'd be open to working with a music publisher, and this melodic and hooky number could be a hit for somebody, if not Leger himself. "Den of Sin," the single off Some Folks Know, was greeted by raucous cheers, and the band played a bit louder, illustrating that Leger recognizes the value of each weapon in his arsenal. The ballad "Riverside" might have lost the crowd a bit, but was only a minor low point in a set that moved along efficiently and without any serious lags.
"Is it okay if we do a Hank Williams song?" Leger asked before a cover of Hank's "Six More Miles (To the Graveyard)." Did he expect anyone to say "No, it's not!" Leger dedicated the song to his grandfather, who introduced him to Williams and music in general, at a young age. Leger is also a noted Bob Dylan enthusiast, and "Isabella" was the most Dylan-esque song of the night, even containing the line "I was young when I left home," which is the title of an early Dylan recording. Keeping with the Dylan theme, James McKie's fiddle work on this song provided a real "Rolling Thunder Revue" vibe at just the right time. There was also a little distortive experimentation here that helped diversify things and keep stereotypical "roots" associations at bay. Leger closed the song with a flourish of string-breaking intensity.
After a very unconvincing "Thank you and goodnight," Leger barely left the stage before an incendiary encore on "Too Broke to Die." There was a buzz as the sizable crowd left just before 1 a.m., presumably none of them having jobs to report to the next morning.