31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Gold in them songs from the voice of a generation,
This review is from: Cobblestone Runway (Audio CD)
I'm posting this partly in response to Keira's critique which, in my view, is some way off the mark. And partly because I sincerely believe this to be one of the releases of the year. Okay, if you are new to the work of this brilliant Canadian singer-songwriter, I admit that Cobblestone Runway would not be my suggested starting point. (Try the self-titled album, Ron Sexsmith or Other Songs to catch a flavour of a writer with a delivery reminiscent of a world-weary Donovan, and a songwriter's touch that could put him alongside Nilsson for sheer emotional content and lyricism, and alongside Buddy Holly for pithy observation and a wondrous ability to get his message over in moments.) I can even understand why Keira thought this sounded all the same. At first listening, that may be true. But surely the same could be said of Cohen, Dylan, Van Morrison and any other performer with a unique delivery. In a world of blandness, please don't hold his distinctive vocal style against him. The subtlety of this album really does not reveal itself to casual listening. I thought it was okay after a couple of plays, quite liked it after four plays... but after half a dozen spins it was love! This may be an album suffused with optimism (and Keira clearly likes bitter meat), but please don't discard it like some piece of throwaway whimsy. The track Gold In Them Hills, for example, which appears in a piano version and again in a guitar version, with vocal backing and assistance from Coldplay's Chris Martin, is a song any writer would be proud to claim. Sexsmith's perceptive lyric finds promise and hope, even when faced with a mountain of bills and the depressing paraphernalia of daily life. Without detailing other tracks, all you really need to know is that the bulk of this album was written after Sexsmith was emerging from a broken long-term relationship and finding his feet again. Anyone can write maudlin, self-pitying lyrics, but it takes a craftsmen like this to cloak an optimistic lyric in a melody that suggests a melancholy mood, a feat he achieves time and again here. And it's not just great lyrically, the musicianship is peerless. His band, to my ears, are reminiscent of The Band in the way they draw musically on a heritage descended from folk music but burnished by city life to the point where every note tugs at some unstated collective memory. A tight, tight unit, with Sexsmith at the helm, an understated driving force. They switch effortlessly from a fresh 'unplugged' sound rooted in the resonance of acoustic double bass, rhythm guitar and drums to an old-style accomplished rock band that could make any song cook. And, boy, can Ron Sexsmith write! If, like me, you are willing to take a chance on an album on the strength of someone else's review, I urge you to give this a listen. This is Sexsmith's sixth album, each one revealing an ever-growing maturity and mastery of his craft. Here is an artist continuing the tradition of lyric writers such as Hank Williams, Elvis Costello, John Prine, Steve Earle and Gram Parsons and others. This is no fast-food quick fix, this is one of the voices of his generation hitting his stride with a band completely in step with him. You've waited all your life to hear Ron Sexsmith, just give Cobblestone Runway a little time to work its undoubted magic.