Album Review: Ron Sexsmith, The Last Rider

Solid 14th album from prolific Canadian singer

With his latest LP, Canadian crooner Ron Sexsmith has brought it all back home, recording at The Bathhouse studio on Lake Ontario, with Ron and Don Kerr behind the production desk: the trio have been friends since they worked as couriers together in the late 1980s. Ron also brought his touring band with him, something of a rarity for the mop-topped singer, which meant that Don doubled up as drummer, alongside Kevin Lacroix (guitar), Jason Mercer (bass) and Dave Matheson (keyboards).

Like the best bits in Sexsmith’s impressive back catalogue, these songs are extremely easy on the ear, often positioning the Ontario man’s perceptive observations inside arrangements that veer sleepily towards the middle of the road. But don’t be fooled: in a similar manner to the wordsmithery of Aimee Mann, hidden inside the saccharine melodies of songs like ‘Our Way’ and ‘Who We Are Right Now’ are some astute takes on the human condition.

Swooping opener ‘It Won’t Last For Long’ is a musical arm around the shoulder of a heartsick friend: “What you’re feeling now will fade away like some forgotten dream / The sun will kiss your eyelids open / You’ll wake to find your heart unbroken”. The roles are reversed on the gorgeous ‘Worried Song’, in which Sexsmith sings, “It was you that helped me see the light that lighted love / And patched my wounded wings so that I might rise above”.

The driving rock ‘n’ roll of ‘Radio’ should guarantee him some well deserved airplay, while ‘Only Trouble Is’ and the lonely trumpet blast of ‘Man At The Gate (1913)’ prove that few songwriters can do melancholy quite like the honey-tongued Canuck. ‘Evergreen’ and ‘Our Way’ are super catchy mid-tempo pop numbers, of the kind that Sexsmith has made his stock in trade since his breakthrough third album, 1997’s Other Songs. At times, he comes across like a transatlantic Neil Hannon, particularly on the galloping, piano-driven ‘West Gwillimbury’, and the string-drenched orchestral pop track ‘Breakfast Ethereal’.

Fifteen songs may be a smidgeon too many, and Sexsmith could easily have dropped two or three. But if the singer were ever to ask if these compositions live up to the stellar pop moments in his past, the answer is simple. They do Ron, Ron Ron: they do, Ron Ron.

 

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