Release Date: Feb 5, 2013
Record label: Cooking Vinyl Records
After 20 years in the music business, Sexsmith’s 2011 album Long Player Late Bloomer brought him closer to the mainstream than ever, but its success was tempered by a health scare later the same year. Doctors found a lump on his throat, and for the next few months “the spectre of death”, as he put it, inspired this set of songs on the themes of mortality and taking stock. Thankfully given the all-clear, the Canadian organised his thoughts into a more introspective album than the pop jangle of its predecessor.
For Ron Sexsmith's last album, Long Player Late Bloomer, the highly respected singer/songwriter teamed up with producer Bob Rock in an attempt to add some glossy radio-friendly sheen to his sound. We're glad he got that out of his system, since that kind of treatment just didn't suit the fragility of his songs. Sexsmith's whole charm is about being uncool, and people relate to him as someone who feels he doesn't belong.
The Canadian singer-songwriter had a health scare while recording his 13th studio album, which may be why it finds him in an acutely reflective mood. Songs such as Sneak Out the Back Door and Deepens With Time deal with death and getting older, and If Only Avenue with regret and facing up to the truth ("There's nobody else to blame/ And that's when they call your name"), though the mood lightens towards the end with the pleasant swing and hints of Dixieland on Me Myself and Wine and the sense of redemption on She Does My Heart Good. Musically we're in familiar folky, country territory, with long-time collaborator Mitchell Froom on production duties; the bluesy Snake Road and the ethereal string and French horn arrangement on Blind Eye are particularly good and, while Elvis Costello is still a touchstone, listeners might also be reminded at times of Johnny Cash's American Recordings or even Beck's album Sea Change.
Ron Sexsmith was just born too late (1964) to have the kind of commercial success his approach and songwriting truly deserves -- he would have cleaned up as a singer and songwriter in the 1970s, but as popular music headed down a groove-oriented path that put little or no premium on intelligent lyrics or sweeping, aching melodies as time and the pop charts stomped, rocked, and rapped into the 21st century, Sexsmith has to be content with being a critics' darling. He is, after all, a very fine songwriter, with a folky base that gives his best compositions the feel of timelessness, and he is also a very confessional songwriter, not hiding behind emotional tricks or gimmicks. Throw in a very heavy streak of melancholy, and it all adds up to never hearing a Sexsmith song on the radio.
After threatening to finally cross over into the wider pop world with 2011's Bob Rock-produced Long Player Late Bloomer, it's surprising that on Forever Endeavour, Ron Sexsmith has returned to the relative safety of producer Mitchell Froom and the much more stripped-down sound that established Sexsmith's reputation in the early '90s. However, the revered Toronto, ON singer-songwriter's career has been a study of such contrasts, and long-time fans will no doubt appreciate the conciseness and purity that Sexsmith and Froom present on their first collaboration since 2006's Time Being. Moving at a leisurely pace, Forever Endeavour follows the formula of a classic early '70s Randy Newman or Glen Campbell album: no song over three-and-a-half minutes; a tight, unobtrusive backing band; and subtle deployment of strings and horns, when required.
Ron SexsmithForever Endeavour(Cooking Vinyl)Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5) Ron Sexsmith is nothing if not consistent. Since coming on the scene in the early 1990s, he’s turned out albums at a steady clip — his latest, Forever Endeavour, is his 13th — while maintaining an admirable level of quality control. Even his lesser material displays a craftsman’s attention to detail, while his best songs reach an offhand elegance that he drives home with his distinctively fractured croon.
“I’m a 35-year-old guy from Canada and I don’t write groove-oriented music. I can’t expect too much,” Ron Sexsmith was quoted as saying in 1999, when quizzed on the commercial prospects and potential of his work. Well, Sexsmith is now a 49-year-old guy from Canada who’s still not writing groove-oriented music but who’s nonetheless proved to be an enduring artist: critically feted, often covered, though not, as he sagely predicted, a household name.
Ron Sexsmith is in a difficult spot: Despite his well-structured pop songs and praise from the likes of Elvis Costello and Paul McCartney, his music has been confined to critical darling status. It’s a shame, because Sexsmith’s music comprises orchestral, Brian Wilson-esque love odes at times, and at others, contemplative, Sea Change-era Beck tunes. His newest album, Forever Endeavour, fuses those elements into an album of tightly-packed pop goodness.
Another great album from the Canadian, posing the question: why is he not bigger? David Sheppard 2013 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.