Wednesday, March 31, 2021


Some musicians are using the Covid downtime to work on new music, and others have used it to search back in their vaults for some forgotten treasures to release. Our favourite Toronto roots-rocker (well, mine) Jerry Leger has done both, and been quite generous about it, with a couple of new/old releases. There's finally a (red) vinyl version of his 2020 album Songs From The Apartment, which was a surprise album released digitally at the start of pandemic last year, a collection of acoustic cuts recorded at home, one mic. To spruce that up, Jerry's added a fine new single to the album, "Sweep It Under The Rug," done in the same style, just him at the piano.

You're not missing anything having the song released in this bare-bones version. I wouldn't want the ballad adorned in any way. It's a moving song, sad but looking forward, about a couple who find out they both have been untrue, but agree to put it aside, as there is still love and hope. As for his home demos, they show just how strong a composer Leger is, the songs fully formed before he hits the studio, not relying on other instruments to beef them up. 

The other release just out is a deluxe edition of his 2019 album, Time Out For Tomorrow. I love this full-band album, produced by Michael Timmins of Cowboy Junkies, a big, guitar-centered album. Leger embodies the spirit of a bunch of classic songwriter-rockers here. I could throw out the all-star names, but the point is he sounds a little like all of them, while copying none of them. His work stands on his own, inspiring and engrossing. The great news here is that the album is now beefed up with a remarkable 18 bonus cuts. These include lots more demos, out-takes and some relevetory live tracks. Solo, live or with a band, Leger has become a songwriting treasure. Check out his site for buying details, and his YouTube channel for even more content.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021


Another one from Young's Performance Series, this one comes from a special night, a warm-up gig for the Ragged Glory tour in 1990. Young and Crazy Horse took over the Catalyst in Santa Cruz, California, and did three sets for the lucky few, two and a half hours of tunes. Since this was before the tour, the setlist for his upcoming gigs hadn't been put together yet, so there was a good spirit of fun throughout, with some rare cuts, band favourites and almost all the new album played.

There's already a live album from this tour, Weld, which was released in 1991. It's good, but this beats it, for various reasons. First, there's excellent sound on this thanks to the small club feel. Young's vocals especially are up close and personal, and the venue allowed for a better recording. The setlist is very different from the tour document of Weld, and we get some gems here. "Country Home" was an old Horse number that first appeared back in 1975, made the Ragged Glory album, but wasn't featured on the tour. "Surfer Joe And Moe The Sleaze" was a dud on the RE*AC*TOR album, but it proves much more enjoyable played live. Other old '70's tracks "Danger Bird" and "Bite The Bullet" are welcome as well, deep cuts for strong fans, rather than those hoping for "Helpless." 

Throughout, the band is locked in, and Young sounds invested in the performance. You can tell the difference, he's not acting at being Neil Young, he's enjoying the thrill of teaming up once again with his best band, and letting loose on some different and new material. Young was enjoying himself so much, during Don't Cry No Tears, a normally short tune, he got the group to continue playing it rather than ending, explaining to the crowd, "I just felt like singing it some more." 

Of course, it helps that there were so many good new songs to play. Ragged Glory was a very good album, and individually the songs were even better live. "Love To Burn" was a great song to jam on, a long story with full-sized guitar solo breaks. "F*!#in' Up" quickly became both a band and fan favourite, and "Love And Only Love" matched the intensity of other Crazy Horse epics such as "Cortez The Killer," the show closer. 

Yeah, there's a lot of Neil Young albums out there, but this one has everything going for it, if you're a fan of Crazy Horse tours. If that doesn't tempt you, stand by the next one, Young Shakespeare," coming this Friday, solo acoustic from 1971, featuring Harvest-era songs.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021


Here's another use of Covid down time. St. John's mainstay Colleen Power took the RPM Challenge in February. That's Record Production Month, and the goal is to make an entire album by yourself, from songwriting to finished product. Power managed just that, coming up with six strong new ones, and doing all the playing and producing herself. That includes vocals, guitar, bass, dulcimer, drum programming and editing, ukulele and accordion. 

You get a bit of everything Power is about in these tracks. There's Newfoundland whimsy, trad, biting wit, social observation, punk attitude, Francophone, grass roots and modern folk. In the sharpest bit of commentary, she uses the tiktok trend of sea shanties to skewer the socio-political climate of her own province. "NL Sea Shanty" chides the province for being "Halif an hour later b'ys, and fifty years behind." Power isn't pulling any punches with this one: "While the world is wielding windmills, we're bawlin' out for oil/Join me in this sea shanty, pretend you're Alan Doyle." On a softer note, her "Purple Aster" is a ukulele charmer, maybe the first song tribute to that hardy flower. Her downtown St. John's street cred comes through solidly on "Spell For A Broken Mirror," with "Bad luck, bad luck, enough to fill up a dump truck."

The pandemic has curtailed the usual St. Patrick's Day shenanigans in St. John's, but not the music, and Power is doing her bit of celebrating on Facebook Live. Join her at 8:30 PM NST (which is 8 PM Atlantic, 7 PM Eastern, etc.) at And to pick up a copy of Tales From Downtown West or any of her other releases, go to

Saturday, March 13, 2021


Man, that's a lot of Leahy's. I count seven in the beloved Ontario family band these days, some of the eleven siblings not active these days, others stepping in to take their place, including a couple of next-generation members. With the changes, they are sounding a lot more progressive these days, with more modern instruments and a world music sound on several cuts, more Enya than trad for sure. Produced by Canadian David Bottrill, with plenty of prog and rock credits from Peter Gabriel to Rush to his credit, there are plenty of big-sounding epic tracks here, lots of soaring vocals, moody keyboards and prominent drums. With Donnell, Doug and Angus all on the sidelines, the fiddle content is way down, not even showing up until the third song on the album.

So, a new chapter, but still with moments of the old "Call To Dance" instrumental excitement. Both "Little Moon" and "Star of the Sea" have that fiddle-and-drum Irish swing, where the group's long-standing prowess as dynamic players takes over. For the rest though, Denise's vocals shine, on rockers such as "Joanne" and the piano ballad "Falling." And for the full family story, check out "My Old Man," which tells how the Leahy music dream got passed down, albeit with the generational shift in tastes we hear in this latest version of the group.

Monday, March 1, 2021


When Mo Kenney first appeared on the East Coast music scene about a decade ago, one of the songs that made her stand out was her striking solo cover of Bowie's Ziggy-era "Five Years." Stripped of its camp and swagger, Kenney's version brought a chilling humanity to the song, allowing the end-times lyrics to stand out. Kenney has always enjoyed throwing a curve-ball cover into her live show, and for her fourth album she delivers a full set of them.

The album was recorded simply at New Scotland Yard studio with the usual crew, producer Joel Plaskett and engineer Thomas Stajcer. Mostly it's one instrument, guitar or keyboard, and Kenney's vocals. That's key because it lets us focus on her emotional readings of songs that feature thoughtful and sensitive lyrics. Also, we get to hear what it was like for Kenney starting out, learning her favourite songs and adapting them to her interpretations.

The opening track, Big Star's beloved "Thirteen," gives a good sense of the type of song Kenney admires, Alex Chilton's tribute to teenage passion all heart and sentimentality. Kenney has curated a fine bunch of surprises as well, everything from fellow Haligonians Dog Day's "Slow Death" to Guided By Voices' "Game Of Pricks" to Magnetic Fields' "Strange Powers." Her version of "Sour Girl" by Stone Temple Pilots manages to put Scott Weiland as close as possible to Carly Simon. Of the better known songs, Patsy Cline's "You Belong To Me" is a strong reminder of the power of classic songwriting. Her remodeling of The Kinks' "I'm Not Like Everybody Else" featuring one-note spacey organ by Plaskett is more a statement than a pop song. Only the best-known number here, Tom Petty's "Yer So Bad," fails. Slowed down, it's too plodding, and it's supposed to be fun. But without question, Kenney's a singer who owns a song, and inhabits them as well as she does her own writing.