Review | Ron Sexsmith – Forever Endeavour
by Steve Benoit, music+interactive+design+photo+social+video = @studionumber9, @bosconcertphoto, @musicsavage, @newportfolkfest
The first time I heard Ron Sexsmith‘s “These Days” (about a decade ago), I was tucked away in the back room and of a not-to-be-named medical software company. The song (a bit of a departure from his previous works apparently) hit me like a breath of fresh air flowing through the plain manilla air ducting located directly right above my head. Compared to what I was hearing most of the time back then, the stylings of the songs on Cobblestone Runway coupled with Sexsmith’s casual way of tossing out songwriting greatness were enough to make me a lifer for his work.
Sexsmith’s latest effort, “Forever Endeavour”, certainly holds true to the course he’s been following since his career began, but some may actually consider it a bit of a ship-righting. Sexsmith’s last few efforts were, at their core, certainly still Sexsmith albums, but they were trying to do more. Perhaps trying to break down the “critically acclaimed” barrier and move into the mass appeal world. That’s something that Sexsmith has openly talked about wanting to do, despite the fact most of the people he admired before becoming a full-time crooner now consider him to be amongst the elite in the game.
I’m sure I’m not the first, and won’t be the last, to compare Sexsmith to Nick Drake, in that you get the feeling someday some 18-year-old kid is going to pick up “Ron Sexsmith: A Retrospective” and realize he’s in the company of genius. But while the artist is still kicking out new work, the respect will be mostly coming from fellow artists and musicphiles.
With Forever, Sexsmith has returned to the formula which made a few of his previous albums click: he’s back to working with Mitchell Froom. Dating back to Sexsmith’s self-titled solo debut in 1995, the duo has a history of putting out solid albums and to my ears, they’ve done it again. Stripping away the synths and layers that made Cobblestone a go to in my library, they’ve moved back to simple strings and orchestration that let the real star of the show be the songwriting. And it works.
The more spins I give this album, the more it digs into my brain. Waking each morning with a different ear worm and aching to throw on the album, I can’t help but think this will end up pretty high on my year end album rankings. But to be brutally honest, I suspect this album will simply further his reputation for achieving critical acclaim while avoiding the mass appeal of musicians of a lesser caliber.
Does Ron Sexsmith really care if I think that this album will win him the mass appeal he’s been craving? Well, if the lyrics to one of the best tracks on the album are any indication (People you can save your judgement / for somebody who might give a damn. / Go and blow your two cents / on a horn in a traffic jam), the answer is a resounding no. I can take this review and stick it where the sun don’t shine for all he cares.
As a matter of fact it sounds like maybe, just maybe, Mr. Sexsmith has realized that he’s already achieved greatness.
I sincerely hope that’s the case.