How does he love thee? Let us count the ways. Ron Sexsmith opens The Last Rider (out April 21 on Compass Records) knowing that whether it’s love or loss, “It Won’t Last for Long,” offering wistful, bittersweet solace. He loves how love has “patched my wounded wings” on “Worried Song.” He loves thee warts and all, putting the past behind, on the achingly gorgeous “Who We Are Right Now,” a ballad that’s just begging to be a wedding reception and romantic movie staple. Against the considerable odds he has evoked, he insists in “Evergreen” that “Our love will last until the end of time” and that “all these changes will never change us.”
He’s smarter than that, of course. One of the master melodists in modern music, Sexsmith is more than the sum of his love songs, and it’s his love of texture, subtlety and musical pleasure itself that shimmers through the 15 tracks on his thirteenth album. At the age of 53 he’ll likely never find the mainstream acceptance or even the large cult following that had been predicted for him as an emerging artist, when early fans such as Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello were singing his praises. With his sharply detailed vignettes, boyhood reveries, and sly evocation of life’s tragicomedy, he may be too folk for pop, too pop for rock and too Canadian for the States. Too late 1960s for a half century on.
Yet if you open your heart to this music, Sexsmith will full your heart, and he may break it.