Ron Sexsmith – Forever Endeavour (2013)
I’m a big admirer of Ron Sexsmith. I discovered his music years ago after one of my musical heroes, Elvis Costello, enthused about him to a music magazine. Costello is usually a man of impeccable taste (I have discovered quite a few artists through his covers and recommendations) and he didn’t steer me wrong in this case; my collection of Ron’s albums grew very quickly until there was nothing left to buy. The vast majority of Sexsmith albums are excellent and are generally slow-burners which get better with every listen. “Forever Endeavour” is no exception to this rule. In fact, I have to admit that I was vaguely disappointed when I heard it for the first time, but after quite a few listens, it is now one of my favourite releases of the year. This is quite a familiar experience when it comes to Ron Sexsmith’s music – the songs get you in the end.
“Forever Endeavour”, Ron’s thirteenth studio album, is a collection of predominantly gentle, subtly melodic songs, ably and tastefully produced by Mitchell Froom, someone Ron has worked with many times before. It sees a return to a more familiar carefully-crafted sound after 2011’s brilliant but slightly more polished “Long Player Late Bloomer” produced by Bob Rock, a name more associated with acts such as Metallica and Bon Jovi rather than a singer-songwriter such as Ron. This album feels more organic than the last (Ron’s superb, characteristic voice was unnecessarily tampered with on “Long Player” which, to me, was the major fault of the whole album) and I suspect that long-time fans will also appreciate hearing a record that has the same kind of ambience as those earlier albums which made us fall deeply in love with his music.
There are plenty of notable tracks on “Forever Endeavour” and the album’s first few songs, in particular, are superb. “Nowhere To Go” has a delicately beautiful melodic theme, “Nowhere Is” and “If Only Avenue” are simply gorgeous pieces with Ron’s expressive voice augmented by sublime arrangements, featuring strings that tastefully enhance and compliment his vocals perfectly. The catchy, bluesy “Snake Road” sees Ron revisiting regrettable episodes in his past and hoping that he doesn’t make the same mistakes again, “Sneak Out The Back Door” is a charming little ditty which betrays Sexsmith’s discomfort with social situations, “Me, Myself and Wine” has an immensely likeable New Orleans, swing-jazz character and “Autumn Light”, the final track, is almost painfully sad and yet quietly magnificent.
Although “Forever Endeavour” isn’t quite enough of a masterpiece for me to declare it my new favourite Ron Sexsmith album, it certainly sits comfortably amongst his best work and doesn’t contain one dull or even average track and is a thoroughly lovely, mature, accomplished piece of work which is a credit to Ron, the band (featuring two of Elvis Costello’s Imposters, Pete Thomas and Davey Faragher) and Mitchell Froom, the talented producer who always seems to get the very best out of the underrated Canadian songsmith. Just don’t make the mistake of dismissing this wonderful album after one listen, because one listen of this album simply isn’t enough to really appreciate it.