Out now on Netwerk America
In the era of 21-year-old models posing as Really Important Artists, Ron Sexsmith is something of an antiquated anomaly, even for a man approaching a hoary 40. Not only can he pen poignant lyrics that make you put down your knitting needles and listen, Sexsmith has an incredible gift for pop melodies, and his voice is an unassuming croon that slides up and down to notes with graceful ease. He also just doesn't strum the guitar, he makes it sing. In short, he's an endangered species.
Yet for Sexmith much depends on capturing the essence of this simplicity without giving in to the temptation of improving it. How many risks can an artist take before the ventures into sonic territories crush the miniature-within-a-song like a hammer to a Faberge Egg? While Sexsmith's songwriting has been consistently strong throughout his career (the reason why he's been compared to Ray Davies, Elvis Costello, Harry Nilsson and other dinosaurs), the quality of his albums has been heavily influenced by the choice of producer.
For his fifth offering, "Cobblestone Runway," Sexsmith is paired with Martin Terefe, a Swedish producer who isn't afraid to venture into electronica, even disco (if just once, on "Dragonfly on Main Street"). Put down that crochet and shake your ass to Ron Sexsmith! But before you can spell ABBA, you will notice Sexsmith shuffling right alongside of you. Unlike his last work, "Blue Boy" which had collaborators Ray Kennedy and Steve Earle casting Sexsmith into a handful of roles that seemed strangely mismatched for the melancholy troubadour, the tasteful loops and textures here work. However, Terefe also knows when to forsake the beat-box and let Sexsmith's soulful vignettes of tenderness ("God Loves Everyone") and best intentions ("Least That I Can Do") bring a bittersweet tear to your eye.