Another great album from the Canadian, posing the question: why is he not bigger?
David Sheppard 2013-02-12
In the summer of 2011, eternally boyish Canadian troubadour Ron Sexsmith endured a major health scare, an issue from which he has thankfully now fully recovered.
The wake-up call seems to have injected the 49-year-old’s typically melancholic pop signature with both an increased poignancy and, here and there on this, his lucky 13th long-player, moments of near rhapsody.
Indeed, Forever Endeavour could be Sexsmith’s most persuasive outing since his eponymous 1995 major label debut.
Produced in LA by veteran helmsman Mitchell Froom and featuring a cast of stellar players, including sometime Attractions drummer Pete Thomas, pedal steel nabob Greg Leisz and LA string players the Calder Quartet, it’s an album whose ingenuous, often nakedly honest songwriting offers an emotional fist gloved in arrangements of seductive velvet.
Typically, early highlight If Only Avenue wraps ruefulness bordering on regret (“With the luxury of hindsight / The past becomes so clear / As I look out on the twilight / My days have become years.”) in undulating folds of decorous violins, punctuated here and there by bursts of Duane Eddy-recalling guitar twang.
The even more lavishly orchestrated Blind Eye alloys a yearning, Willy DeVille-like street-corner pop croon with warm-toned Al Green soulfulness and the odd wry apercu: “God must have gone fishing now / With all that hell’s dishing out.”
The exquisitely delivered, country-tinged Lost in Thought, meanwhile, could have slipped from the grooves of Elvis Costello’s Imperial Bedroom, if not the pages of the Great American Songbook; and the plangent, chiming McCartney-esque pop-rocker Back of the Hand is arguably the sunniest moment in the entire Sexsmith oeuvre.
It’s become a critics’ cliché to dismiss Sexsmith as a terminally unfashionable nearly man; a songwriter’s songwriter, enmeshed forever in the style and trappings of a bygone age.
But on this evidence, that’s really no bad thing – you could almost think of him as the straight Rufus Wainwright. His talent, if not his understated demeanour, surely deserves a profile to match that of his ostentatious (semi-)countryman.