This is getting a little ridiculous. Ron Sexsmith’s 10th album
deceptively simple, unassuming collection of excellent, literate pop-rock nuggets that’s already been released in other parts of the world to glowing reviews and the sad-but-true assumption that Sexsmith is permanently consigned to being the “songwriter’s songwriter” with no way to cross over to a large, adoring mainstream audience. If endorsements from Elvis Costello, Paul McCartney and Elton John—and a duet with Coldplay’s Chris Martin—can’t do it, why would a reunion with Sexsmith’s most sympathetic producer, Mitchell Froom, suddenly change fortune?
Once again, those already in-the-know will be both over- and underwhelmed. Sexsmith may change producers and alter instrumentation, but his songwriting remains a carefully measured exercise where words are weighted against the melody until resolved with the perfect quatrain. Opening cut “Hands of Time” faces down mortality with Sexsmith’s boyish excitement circling a solid melody. “Snow Angel” immediately follows with a sudden extra reach in its chorus that has The Beach Boys in its sights and immediately ranks alongside Sexsmith’s ?nest. The album continues this way—ballads (“Never Give Up,” “And Now the Day Is Done”) balanced with mid-tempos (“I Think We’re Lost”)—until the 12 tracks play out in normal Sexsmith manner. Like Warren Zevon, to whom Sexsmith is never compared, the songwriting is so consistent that the
listener is spoiled by its ease. There is neither a misstep nor a daring leap here. Once again, let us tip our hats to modesty and competence.