If you haven't heard any Ron Sexsmith then you may as well start here just as I did. The fourteen songs on this album cover most of what the man seems to be about. 'Strawberry Blonde' and 'Pretty Little Cemetery' could easily be but aren't the missing segments from Robert Altman's movie Short Cuts. 'April After All', 'While You're Waiting' and 'It Never Fails' all manage to say more by saying less and 'Clown in Broad Daylight' is just plain knockabout tragedy. Great writing sure but great playing from Ron and the band as well. In retrospect (I'm writing after the release of the 'Blue Boy' album) this is just part of the whole massive ever-growing songbook of classics that Ron is slowly pushing out. Start here then get the rest. There ain't no-one better.
The philosophy of this 1997 release from Ron Sexsmith seems to be if it's not broke don't fix it, as this the follow-up to Ron's eponymous release from 1995, follows the same formula, the main protagonists from that first album are here.
On production the excellent Mitchell Froom and assisting with production and recording as well as mixing Mitchell's long-time partner Tchad Blake, this is exactly the same as before, this team of Froom and Blake did the same on the first album released 2 years earlier.
The musicians that are involved are pretty much the same as well, from the keyboard playing of Mr Froom to the percussion and drum work of Jerry Marotta and Ron himself is playing guitars and singing the main vocals. There is a subtle difference with this recording Sheryl Crow is playing accordion, but sadly no back up singing.
This album also has like the first collection the awesome Bob Ludwig mastering these recordings at "Gateway" mastering so the overall sound quality is just superb.
The only difference is in the material, where before Ron's songs were pretty much at the same tempo this batch of tracks has more light and shade to them, there are some tracks that are more up-tempo.
For me though the best tracks are the slower ones such as the opening track "Thinking out Loud" with the opening line of "Thinking out loud, is all I'm doing, trying to raise my love, above these ruins, with each song, I kick around, Thinking..." For me an excellent first verse that sets the tone for the more intense parts of the album.
The song that follows was lifted off the album as a single, the "Strawberry Blonde" single has tracks on it that were recorded at the sessions but didn't make the album, check-out Ron's Rarities" album for those.
I must agree with other reviews of this artist with every release this under appreciated singer songwriter just gets better.
Mr Sexsmith may be an acquired taste, but the musical rewards of this singer songwriter are worth the effort.
If you liked the first album and you love great music give this album a try you will not be disappointed, truly an excellent collection...
Sexsmith seems to have distilled the spirit of small town america in this little musical time capsule. The songs, playing and production reminded me of the soundtrack to a David Lynch film - i can almost hear Sexsmith croon "Blue Velvet". The songs are wonderfully crafted - real songwriting as opposed to jingles and half-baked ideas - but delivered in a naive, folky almost amateurish way that adds charm and ambience. Froom's production is very effective - there's nothing clinical or polished, the instruments not separated too much in the mix and the whole thing feels homogeneous and natural. Highlights ? It's hard to seperate the 14 songs - it's like they're all integral parts of an overall picture; Pretty Little Cemetery is spooky, Child Star creepy, Clown in Broad daylight a mini mardi gras, the rest great pop compositions with distinnctive catchy melodies and interesting instrumentation. Sexsmith's voice may be an acquired taste but then the best things usually are - perhaps Elvis Costello is the nearest if you have to compare. This is a great album - even better than the promising eponymous debut release.