For every song youve ever heard, how many more have died at birth, Canadian singer Ron Sexsmith wonders aloud on This Song, the leadoff track from his fourth album.
Sexsmith must come by his curiosity about the fate of songs naturally. Thanks to record company politics, Blue Boy very nearly died at birth. But Sexsmith was able to extract himself from Interscope Records and has released the album, his most accomplished work yet, through a syndicate of indie labels around the world.
Working with producers Steve Earle and Ray Kennedy, Sexsmith bonds his thoughtful, elegant wordplay, indelible sense of melody, and demure voice to a myriad of styles from the Revolver-era Beatlesque sheen of This Song, to the cocktail croon of Foolproof, to the Memphis-style groove of Cheap Hotel, to the Sun-era Johnny Cash shuffle of Thirsty Love. Hopscotching in that manner not only pays tribute to the imagination of the players, but also speaks well for the bedrock quality of the songs themselves.
Kennedy has demonstrated a talent for bringing out the quality of artists voices without despoiling the character of their singing (think of his work with Lucinda Williams and Earle). Throughout Blue Boy, he brings Sexsmiths vocals forward, revealing new warmth, texture and empathy.
In contrast to the delicacy of Sexsmiths earlier Mitchell Froom-produced records, Earle and Kennedy have emboldened the artists style, too, fortifying Not Too Big with a clattering percussive track that is, by Sexsmiths standards, downright funky, while Keep It In Mind positively swaggers. Be glad these songs survived.