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From The Heart
on 4 February 2013
All of Ron Sexsmith's album reviews have been lavishly festooned with stars and his latest offering should not be an exception. His gentle, introspective alternative folk albums have been produced by such talents as Bob Wiseman, Steve Earle, Don Kerr, Daniel Lanois and Bob Rock but, to my mind, his music achieves its greatest expression when produced by Mitchell Froom.
Sexsmith's considerable talents as writer and performer have been acclaimed by John Hiatt, Elvis Costello and Paul McCartney among others and it is strange that this critical acclaim has not been matched with commercial success. Nevertheless he continues to delight with his beautifully crafted lyrics and melodies and I suppose that his work ethic is exposed in the title of the album "Forever Endeavour".
With lushly arranged strings, brass and woodwind, Froome's production brings an elegant grandeur to the melancholy simplicity of the songs. The mood is set on the opening track "Nowhere To Go" with mournful French horn, a string quartet and Ron's aching voice making us aware of the often hopelessness of existence. The gentle, bittersweet "If Only Avenue" is underpinned by bass guitar lines reminiscent of Duane Eddy with French horn, baroque strings and woodwind creating an inspired musical tapestry.
The musical score is enriched by veteran sessionmen Bob Glaub (bass), Greg Leisz (pedal steel), The Attraction's drummer Pete Thomas and Cracker's Davey Faragher on bass. Included in the impressive mix are the sounds of tuba and brass. But nowhere is this musical tapestry allowed to impose upon the elegiac quality of Ron's voice. "Life After A Broken Heart" is a masterpiece of musical understatement with melody, lyrics and voice ghosted by subtle strings.
"Deepens With Time" and "Morning Light" were written in the aftermath of a cancer scare and Froom's arrangements are supremely sensitive to the emotional reality of Ron's voice. But there are a couple of upbeat numbers too - "She Does My Heart Good" and the bouncy New Orleans jazz sound of "Me, Myself And Wine", a tribute to the enjoyment of a glass or two, shows that not all hope is lost in Ron's world.
This album collects some of Sexsmith's finest work, with the dream like "Lost In Thought", the sixties pop sound of "Back Of My Hand" and the bluesy "Snake Road" demonstrating that there are few songwriters around today who can match Sexsmith for versatility and craftsmanship. If the record buying public are content for him to remain my personal cult hero that is a sad indictment but I suppose I must be happy with that.