The key to Ron Sexsmith's appeal is that he's equally rooted in two contradictory traditions: old-school country rock and post-Smiths literary archness. It's fitting then that Sexsmith dedicates Retriever
to the memories of June and Johnny Cash and Elliott Smith. The influences of Cash and Smith are both discernible on this fine album, along with those of John Hiatt, Lloyd Cole, John Prine and The Divine Comedy. From these incongruous inspirations, Sexsmith has wrought another fine album riddled with instantly memorable melodies and artlessly affecting lyrics. Sexsmith is on especially fine form on the ballads: the only thing wrong with "Whatever It Takes" is that it has arrived too late to be sung by Marvin Gaye; in "For the Driver" and "Dandelion Wine", the sentiments and arrangements are dressed up only as much as they need to be.
Retriever suffers slightly from an excess of polish in the arrangements--"Wishing Wells" and "Happiness" in particular might have benefited from a slightly more robust approach--but for the most part is a tour-de-force of intelligent songwriting. --Andrew Mueller