In my recent blog bit about Lloyd Cole, I described him as perhaps the most under-rated of the artists that I truly admire. Unfortunately, in making that statement I had forgotten about the talented singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith. While Sexsmith is often called a “songwriter’s songwriter,” let’s be honest–that’s just a nice way of labelling someone who is underappreciated and not as commercially successful as they deserve.
It’s hard to believe that it has been 20 years since Elvis Costello appeared on the cover of Mojo magazine holding Ron’s major label debut CD under the banner “The Best Thing I’ve Heard All Year.” I included, we all owe Elvis thanks for introducing us to perhaps the most talented and prolific pop songwriter to come out of Canada since Gordon Lightfoot. Tonight at the City Winery, Sexsmith played a near 2-hout set, spotlighting ten songs from his fourteenth release, Carousel One, and also acknowledging the 20th anniversary of that remarkable self-titled record.
Like he does most often, Sexsmith tours with a full band, albeit that this one featured new players except for his long time drummer and backing vocalist, Don Kerr. Hearing him this way is a true treat in that not only is Sexsmith a masterful lyricist, he also has an uncanny knack for composing the snappiest melodic musical arrangements to accompany his words. (The players also allowed Ron some solo space at both acoustic guitar and piano.) While Sexsmith may not be one of the world’s best vocalists, his songs always carry a nice groove for him to slide in his sometimes frail but always heartfelt and sensitive vocals.
Although it was been awhile since he has played here (he last played at the Belcourt in 2008), Sexsmith is no stranger to Music City. He acknowledged the town both by referring to the local radio station that “hates me” (Lightning 100) and his teen age love for classic country music. Demonstrating the latter, he added to his set songs made popular by Charlies Rich and Pride and the Louvin Brothers.
If you have not by now discovered Ron Sexsmith, I suggest that it is time that you did. While there is a wealth of solid material for you to sink your teeth into, I’d recommend starting with that 1995 debut. On it you will find “Secret Heart,” a beautifully tender introspective number than has seen its share of great covers (Feist, Rod Stewart and Nick Lowe). But, after you hear the emotion that Ron puts both into the words and the performance, I suspect that you will find yourself continuing on with his extensive catalog.
Ron was pictured pre-show with some of the folks involved with the Nashville TV show: musical director Buddy Miller, fellow Canadian musician Colin Linden and actor Sam Palladio. Perhaps his mention that he would be back here in the fall might involve his musical talents somehow gracing the show somehow? Let’s sure hope that whatever it is, it means that this great singer-songwriters gets the further notice he deserves.
- All in Good Time
- Sun’s Coming Out
- Before the Light is Gone
- Lord Knows
- If Only Avenue
- Wasting Time
- Strawberry Blonde
- A Hard Bargain
- Loving You
- Saint Bernard
- Can’t Get My Act Together
- There’s Gold in Them Hills
- Words We Never Use
- ‘Til I Can’t Take it Anymore (Charlie Rich cover)
- Tomorrow in Her Eyes
- From a Few Streets Over
- Lucky Penny
- Get in Line
- You’re Learning (Louvin Brothers cover)
- Nothing Feels the Same Anymore
- Whatever it Takes
- Getaway Car
- Sure as the Sky
- Secret Heart
- Is Anybody Going to San Antone? (Charlie Pride cover)
- Deepens With Time
Ron Sexsmith—vocals, acoustic guitar and piano
Kevin Lacroix—electric guitar
Don Kerr—drums and backing vocals