In Kinks classics such as “Days”, “This Is Where I Belong” and “Waterloo Sunset”, Ray Davies mined a vein of bittersweet wistfulness that other rockers have rarely approached. Until Ron Sexsmith. This may be heresy, but over the last decade, the Canadian tunesmith has crafted a body of work that not only echoes but rivals that of the Kinks at their most exquisite (late-’60s).
Time Being — a title that hits the perfect thematic chord — is as good as any album Sexsmith has released, though pretty much every album he issues strikes me at the time as his best. It reunites him with producer Mitchell Froom, after interesting detours including one record produced by Steve Earle; Froom’s early work with Sexsmith established the songwriter’s reputation. Here, Froom eschews the bells and whistles he often employs with others, with the stripped-down arrangements letting the strength of the material stand on its own.
And the material is uniformly strong — subtly so, yearningly so, melodically so. From the lilt of “Hands Of Time” to the evanescence of “Snow Angel” to the pop resilience of “All In Good Time” to the romantic balladry of “Reason For Our Love”, Sexsmith makes it all sound so effortless that one wonders why so little popular music has this much grace.
He’s particularly adept at matching darker lyrical strains with warmer tunes. Environmental apocalypse has never sound as buoyant as it does in “I Think We’re Lost”, while the hushed intimacy of “And Now The Day Is Done” provides musical comfort in the face of death. As for the domestic la-la-la’s of “Some Dusty Things”, for those of us who love this sort of stuff, it just doesn’t get any better than this.