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Ron Sexsmith
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  • Ron Sexsmith,
  • Other Songs,
  • Whereabouts,
  • Blue Boy,
  • Cobblestone Runway,
  • Retriever,










  • Adrian's Album Reviews |

    Ron Sexsmith

    Related Artists - Elvis Costello, Richard Thompson, Townes Van Zandt
    Related Genres - Country & Folk

    Ron Sexsmith 9 ( 1995 )
    Secret Heart / There's A Rhythm / Words We Never Use / Summer Blowin Town / Lebanon Tennessee / Speaking With The Angel / In Place Of You / Heart With No Companion / Several Miles / From A Few Streets over / First Chance I Get / Wastin Time / Calbraith Street

    I'll be honest and say that it took me a long time ( over a year ) to get into this album. On the other hand, I know of a truly beautiful soul who got into it right away, picked it up without particularly knowing what to expect - and fell in love with his voice and music straight away. I don't know what it was that kept me coming back to the album when I wasn't even enjoying listening to it, but there was something. It's very heartfelt and genuine, very soulful writing, if that's the correct word to use, and I feel that it is. Still, perhaps the lack of instant, obvious 'thrills' is part of the reason Ron Sexsmith hasn't achieved the sales he definitely deserves. Who knows? This is all speculation, down to the matter at hand. 'Secret Heart' is three minutes and sixteen seconds of song to fall in love with. It's.... perfect, in a word. Poetic lyrics, simple lyrics, he's not filling the song with difficult words, hard to grasp symbolism, this is subject matter everybody can understand. His voice is something that deserves a mention. It's distinctive immediately and doesn't sound like the sort of voice that came to him through hours of learning and practice, it sounds very genuine and true to his soul. 'Secret Heart' is followed by 'There's A Rhythm', an utterly haunting guitar pattern - vocals to send you to heaven in a fit of lonely tears, wanting desperately to hold onto to somebody, or something - for fear of collapsing altogether. 'There's A Rhythm' can mean that much to someone. Oh my.... Oh, sorry. When the drums and... what even is this instrument? Oh, an accordion. When that sound hits.... it sends me all over the place. This is truly timeless, beautiful stuff. A one-two-three classic beginning to the album is sealed with the happy, life-affirming melodies of 'Words We Never Use'. Great melody, very clever lyrics, very good lyrics. I love the simplicity of his lyrics, yet the poetic nature of the lyrics are without question.

    We have variety here, the fuller group performance of the likes of 'Summer Blowin Town' and 'First Chance I Get'. We've the softer, utterly gorgeous likes of 'Lebannon Tennessee' and 'Wastin Time'. We've got a few quirkier, but no less pretty and affecting songs with the likes of 'From A Few Streets Over' - and Ron is plugging into something here. It's clearly obvious why the mighty Richard Thompson has fallen in love with him, for a start. There are few folk singer/songwriters greater or more important than Richard Thompson has been, and Ron is right there. The closing 'Galbraith Street' is just Ron and acoustic guitar. His voice yearns and makes the listeners heart yearn. He's not, on the face of it, performance wise - doing anything that hasn't been done before. There have been more impressive folk/acoustic guitar players. There have been folk singers with technically better voices, more powerful voices. So, what is it about Ron Sexsmith, anyway? Well, his voice is utterly gorgeous - it sounds like a hug on a particular lonely Sunday evening. Besides the voice of course, we've got the songs. It really is as simple as that.

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    Readers Comments

    GAZZA garyhess44@hotmail.com
    It took me a while to get into this at first . But it has repaid repeated plays in spades. Its a beautiful album - the 1st 2 tracks so much so that it nearly overwhelms what follows but gradually you just let them lead you from one great song to the next great song . I detect Shades of costello,mccartney,the smiths and the folk music of paul simon and gordon lightfoot but generally rons talent is his own . That voice is so sadly wise and yet so warm that you cant help but nod your head as he details lifes truths . And thats whats so appealing , sexsmiths songs like elliot smith, badly drawn boy and neil finn (prob closest comparison and he shares crowded houses producer here) detail circumstances and emotions we all can relate to and comfort us with that recognition . Rons a better singer and guitarist than the above mentioned (who i all love) but yet sells far less records . "several miles" just makes me think about slow dancing in a darkened room - id loved to h! ave heard roy orbison tackle it . I also love the cover of leonard cohens "heart with no companion" theres a couple of cracking up tempo tunes too but the mood is mainly low key and contemplative. The production is perfect subtle but sparse allowing the focus on rons songs and excellent guitar playing. There isnt a bad song on it in truth and maybe he hasnt reached that mass audience yet because hes too good , the masses dont want anything of this quality and intimacy. Im looking forward to exploring more of his work 9/10 .


    top of page Other Songs 8 ( 1997 )
    Thinking Out Loud / Strawberry Blonde / Average Joe / Thinly Veiled Disguise / Nothing Good / Pretty Little Cemetery / It Never Falls / Clown In Broad Daylight / At Different Times / Child Star / Honest Mistake / So Young / While You're Waiting / April After All

    The delicate, soft and beautiful proper song-writing of 'Thinking Out Loud' immediately makes it clear that Ron is very much carrying on from the previous album, although there are diversions along the way. Unfortunately the songs here are not on the whole upto the standards on his self-titled set. Well, he had four years or more to write the songs for that album and considerably less time to write the songs for this album. It's a typical thing, actually. You get your whole life to prepare for your debut and then a year to make your second album. Why do you think 'second album syndrome' ever came into parlance? Still, 'Strawberry Blonde' has fascinating, captivating story-telling lyrics, 'Average Joe' includes vocal harmonies, always a good thing round our way. What, Ron going all Beach Boys on us? Well, not quite but, revealing my own biases here - it truly is remarkable how many artists through the years have paid homage to those boys from Hawthorne. Anyway, we carry on. Great song titles here, by the way. Well, great lyrics, actually. The lyrics are arguably better than they were before - it's the quality of the melodies, still good melodies though, that loses this album 'points' over the previous one. Which makes me sound like some cold, calculating machine - but I don't mean to comes across that way, ever. 'Other Songs' is very solid and most songwriters would die to have written a set of songs this good and accomplished - but Ron had done so much with his self-titled album, that there was always going to be the danger of being disappointed in any follow-up album. Well, unless it somehow managed to achieve an impossible level of writing and musical perfection, of course!

    We've got more band ( almost rock or pop - or country rock or folk pop? ) songs here than before. 'Nothing Good' includes a very solid sounding, full band performance over which Ron sings and country styled country/rock harmonies appear. The guitar suddenly begins to resemble The Byrds here and that's a good thing. This is no mere pastiche, however - Ron's voice and lyrics stamps his own indelible personality upon the whole enterprise. 'Child Star' is a truly affecting moment here, a sad, beautiful sounding song. You can draw it up as being auto-biographical if you like, to attach extra meaning to the song given Ron Sexsmith's youthful looks, although in reality - this isn't in actual fact, the story of his life or anything like that. No, just this timeless, beautiful ballad. Another highlight arrives with the simple yet affecting melodies of 'So Young'. The songs here may not appear to be as beautifully 'crafted' as before, not as poetic as before. Indeed, they sound like they took less time to write than before - yet still we've got a more than fine set of songs. Some of the tunes may more clearly fall short of his previous work than others, but others again are upto the standard we'd already come to unfairly expect of an artist still ( then ) very early into his professional recording career.

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    Readers Comments

    GAZZA garyhess44@hotmail.com
    I agree with your review adrian , mainly i think this records problem is that the best songs are loaded to the front of the cd . Wheras the 1st album was a flawless set of songs . this one had 2 or 3 which didnt quite gel unfortunately . Frooms detailed production is also starting to make things sound a little generic too and it needed more than bringing in horns for a couple of tracks to disguise this. However "strawberry blonde "pretty little cemetary" and "average joe" are all classics especially the latter which sounds like the beach boys with ringo on drums !! And its ron on his way to consolidating his sound , a lovely little trip round the human heart with songs that are often like little short stories set to music . A flawed follow up but still worth a spin . 6.5/10


    top of page Whereabouts( 1999 )
    Still Time / Right About Now / Must Have Heard it Wrong / Riverbed / Feel For You / In A Flash / The Idiot Boy / Beautiful View / One Grey Morning / Doomed / Every Passing Day / Seem To Recall

    Ron steps up, steps forwards and does fuller band perfomances, more rock n roll type of pop/rock/folk songs, better than he did before. Mixed in with these are a quota of the more usually styled, gorgeous Ron Sexsmith, folky stuff. A new Ron Sexsmith can arrive in the stores and all but the already knowing can miss its existence altogether, which is something of a shame when songs as wonderful as 'Feel For You' are in his catalogue. 'Beautiful View' is an example of a great pop/rock song with good melodies. Catchy stuff with good playing, a string section, great singing and lyrics. What more could you reasonably ask for? You can count on many things to let you down sings Ron on the brass instrument assisted, totally great 'One Grey Morning' and it all makes sense. He's singing with genuine feeling, it's real. Well, it comes across as being real and that's really most of the battle won, isn't it? There are good songs all the way through this album, by the way - right through to the closing 'Seem To Recall', back to Ron in singer/songwriter mode, back to 'classic' Ron Sexsmith. Poetry, simple lyrics and heartfelt vocals. Right at the other end of the album we get ourselves a little bit of a classic with the very coverable 'Still Time'. It sounds like Ron Sexsmith, sounds like the best of his self-titled album and also includes the slightly fuller production sound of the 'Whereabouts' album in general.

    'Right About Now' and especially 'River Bed' share the timeless, simple and poetic writing style of the best Ron Sexsmith songs. 'River Bed' in particular includes such a lovely, sad and beautiful melody that tears are a distinct possibility. I never said I would be your superhero sings Ron, and we know that, don't we? Don't we? Writers of this stature don't appear every day. 'In A Flash' is very simple guitar with one other instrument s merely subtly fleshing out the sound. Really, this song is the typical sound of Ron Sexsmith, his words and voice. 'Whereabouts' captures the essence of Ron Sexsmith very well and would work as an excellent starting point for those curious about his music. It's well upto his usual high standards, and at this stage in his career, effectively showcases all facets of his writing style and character.

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    Blue Boy( 2001 )
    This Song / Cheap Hotel / Don't Ask Why / Foolproof / Tell Me Again / Just My Heart Talkin / Not Too Big / Miracle In Itself / Thirsty Love / Never Been Done / Thumbelina Farewell / Parable / Keep It In Mind / Fallen

    Before writing this review, I had to tidy the page up a little. I hadn't realised it had been three years since i'd written a review of 'Whereabouts'. I still haven't received any Ron Sexsmith readers comments and Ron still hasn't started selling huge quantities of records. A change occured in the production department for 'Blue Boy', incidentally. Out goes Mitchell Froom, in arrives Steve Earle and Ray Kennedy. Oh, famous people who like Ron Sexsmith. I've mentioned a few previously, haven't I? Well, Paul McCartney latched onto the songs of Ron Sexsmith approximately around the time of the release of 'Blue Boy' and Paul knows a melody when he hears one. It's nice to imagine ( ha! ) Paul sitting down to listen to 'This Song', smiling and nodding his head. 'This Song' is upbeat, uptempo, and the Steve Earle production resulting in a bouncier rhythm section than albums Froom oversaw. 'This Song' is brassy, very poppy and superbly arranged rock/pop. It comes across almost like you imagine a Van Morrison / Paul McCartney collaboration circa 1974 would sound. 'Cheap Hotel' arrives, it's a slice of typical Ron Sexsmith excellence, just over two minutes, evocative lyrics ably assisted by economical yet perfectly rounded playing and production. Third tune 'Don't Ask Why' is again, typical Ron Sexsmith, so even though it's another excellent tune, it's welcome relief when the jazzy spaces of 'Foolproof' arrives. It's so lovely and beautiful too, more so when 'Tell Me Again' turns up, all two and a half minutes of it. All jaunty and happy. More variation arrives with the actually funky 'Not Too Big' and with these journeys into different styles, the album threatens to acheive classic status.

    The second half of the album repeats the formula of the first, more or less. A couple of tunes that are less than memorable, yet equally, 'Thirsty Love' which is marvellous and marvellously simple, in a good way. The ravishing closing track, 'Fallen'. 'Fallen' is another song here tinged with Jazz and if Ron Sexsmith does Jazz/Soul ballads as ravishingly as this, he should do an entire album like that, as far as i'm concerned. Warm and reflective music that keeps you comforted on a cold winters day. Ah, 'Farewell Thumbelina' tickles my fancy, it does. I love songs with little twinkling, simple glockenspiel type melodies and sounds. 'Miracle In Itself' opens well with piano, contains a lovely string section in the mid-tune instrumental break. Can the man do no wrong? 'Blue Boy' still isn't quite a knock-out punch, though. Those few weaker tunes, the sense that there's still something Ron Sexsmith isn't so much holding back, but something he hasn't quite been able to express yet.... remains. Does that make sense? Still, minor quibbles, as another high rating for Ron Sexsmith will testify to.

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    Readers Comments

    gazza garyhess44@hotmail.com
    Having seen this guy live recently and being impressed thought id buy a cd . I wasnt dissapointed . His songs are so catchy and enigmatic , steve earle keeps the production to a minimum and as adrian says apart from a couple of weaker tracks its an outstanding singer songwriter album . Theres plenty of highlights from the bouncy opening this song to the chet bakerish foolproof to my favourites tell me again and just my heart talking . He tries skewed funk on not too big and it sounds like parody and a couple of the later tracks are forgettable but this is obviously a major talent at work. Lets hope he gets recognition now rather than retrospectively like the tragic stories of tim hardin and elliott smith ( the songwriters he most reminds me of)!


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    Cobblestone Runway 9 ( 2002 )
    Former Glory / These Days / Least That I Can Do / God Loves Everyone / Disappearing Act / For a Moment There / Gold in Them Hills / Heart's Desire / Dragonfly on Bay Street / The Less I Know / Up the Road / Best Friends

    What do you do when your fifteen year marriage falls apart? Well, throw yourself into your work, of course. Ron comes up with a new batch of songs just ten months after 'Blue Boy' enchanted us all. Almost impossibly, 'Cobblestone Runway' is not merely even better, but it ranks amongst the mans finest ever work. Still, he remains commercially ignored, even in Canada where apparently radio stations are forced by law to play 50% homegrown material. Paul McCartney, Elton John, Elvis Costello, Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle may all name-drop him, but it seems to matter not one iota. He keeps releasing albums that are wonderfully crafted, surpremly melodic, touching on the maudlin - yet since when did maudlin kill anybody? Yes, his albums are always a slightly difficult first listen, yet Ron clearly doesn't want to compromise his art to extent that seems to be required to get a hit these days. Programmed contemporary beats do feature on 'Cobblestone Runway' and some rather fleshed out arrangements. The songs overcome such attempts at making Ron more radio-friendly, when in actual fact there's nothing 'wrong' with his songs in the first place. He hasn't changed his style and his core and heart shines through even on the slightly misguided likes of 'Dragonfly On Bay Street'. House Sexsmith, anyone? Well, it's far better than you imagine, as I've said, Ron's core shines through and elevates the arrangement to something far better.

    And now this.

    Everything will be just like you remember / Today won't look as bad as it seemed / And though love's become a dying ember / It will burn brighter than you ever dreamed

    There are no gates in heaven / Everyone gets in / Queer or straight / Souls of every faith / Hell is in our minds / Hell is in this life / But when it's gone / God takes everyone

    Ron knows how to pen a line or two. But it's when it comes to 'Gold In Them Hills' that everything comes together. He makes an optimistic lyric sound hopelessly desperately sad, the music matches. A violin, a lonesome piano, so very eloquently expressed lyrics. Whatever made you fall in love with Ron Sexsmith in the first place, and for me it was the 1st album, 'Gold In Them Hills' can make you fall in love all over again. 'God Loves Everyone', 'Former Glory', 'These Days' and 'The Less I Know' are all certified classics in our house, too. Nothing even remotely approaches mediocre with the possible exception of 'Dragonfly', but even that's a grower. Enough words. When 'The Less I Know' manages to be the best song Paul McCartney never wrote, you know Ron's onto something, whether the rest of the world ever realise or not. Oh, can I add the sunshine melancholy of 'Up The Road' to the list? It may remind of Elliot Smith, but I don't remember him ever being this good.

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    top of page Retriever( 2004 )
    Hard Bargain / Imaginary Friends / Not About to Lose / Tomorrow in Her Eyes / From Now On / For the Driver / Wishing Wells / Whatever It Takes / Dandelion Wine / Happiness / How on Earth / I Know It Well

    Some very strong songs here and hey, Ron was in love! Good on him. Still, nobody had still heard of him and why could Leonard Cohen not sell any records yet become known, to loads of people, yet Ron still exists in some weird universe? This Canadian is one of the most consistent and great singer-songwriters the world had ever known! Emmy Lou Harris has, at the time of writing, covered 'Hard Bargain' and hopefully a few pennies will get to Sexsmith. The first three songs indeed are all wonderful. They have simple pop/rock arrangements and his distinctive yet not unpleasant voice soars during all of them. The next track out is 'Tomorrow In Her Eyes', which should be covered by everybody. Lovely weary and lost vocal, lovely Piano playing and universal emotions captured by simple, everyday words and phrases. No wonder Paul McCartney loves the guy. Paul would kill to write a song this good, these days. Yes, it's a little sappy and it's hardly 'rock n roll'. Yet, was Nick Drake 'ROCK'? Was Van Morrison or yes, Leonard Cohen ever really 'ROCK'? Of course not. Critics still adore Ron even if nobody buys his records. Well, no radio stations ever play his records. He has flitted from major label to major label because record industry people (yeah, those idiots!) realise what kudos there is to have Ron on their label. Yet, short of him duetting his Lady Gaga (hideous prospect) how the hell is Ron ever going to sell ANY RECORDS?!?? Simon Cowell, next time X Factor is on, have a Ron Sexsmith song in the final. You know it makes sense.

    'For The Driver' is Ron and guitar and one of his lonely, sad ballads. It's gorgeous and his voice and guitar is all he ever really needs. 'Whatever It Takes' has strings, a happy sounding melody and nice, happy love filled lyrics. Play it on the radio someone or use it in your film. Well, yes, I know it's not one of his best songs, but something has to happen. Still, for all my hyperbole, not too many tracks here are actually as good as ones Sexsmith has written in the past. A happy, commercial Ron who still doesn't sell records even if he does pen the Beatle-esque 'Happiness'? He may as well go back to writing absolutely heartbreaking ballads. Perhaps that's the difference between a Sexsmith and a Cohen - tone. Cohen was funny admist his unrelenting bleakness. Sexsmith is just good. Just being good seemingly isn't enough these days.

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    this page last updated 08/05/11


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