Some people are just damn good at what they do. Canadian Ron Sexsmith is one of those people. Easily one of the most gifted songwriters in music today, he is neither flashy nor associated with any identifiable trend. Unfortunately, he's also not especially well-known in America. The flip-side of his lack of massive popularity, however, is a sort of indie credibility that places him alongside some of the more cutting edge artists going. Thing is, there's not a cutting edge within a hundred miles of Ron Sexsmith. Instead, his trade is classically beautiful folk-pop, and he plies it well, mining Paul McCartney territory with ease and precision. Since his self-titled debut in 1995, he's issued record after record of sweetly melancholic gems, without ever falling into treacly sentimentality.
Ron Sexsmith's show Saturday night at Smith's Olde Bar showcased many of the highlights of his impressively consistent body of work, from "Secret Heart," a cut from his first record (and most recently covered by Feist) to several songs from his great new record, Time Being, which I only just picked up. Although he joked about just having recovered from a case of laryngitis, his voice was still as warm and buttery as ever, and his band was tight and workmanlike in its approach. No one in the band made any attempt to hog the spotlight, including Ron himself. It was readily apparent that the spotlight was always exactly where it belonged -- on the songs. Never mind that stylistically, no Ron Sexsmith song is ever drastically different from any other one. The point is that they are all very, very good. Highlights of his set included "Gold in Them Hills," from Cobblestone Runway, "Hard Bargain," from Retriever, and "I Think We're Lost" from Time Being, along with the aforementioned "Secret Heart."
Now Ron doesn't exactly cut one of the most handsome figures in pop music, but the number of devoted female fans in the audience is a testament to his ability to touch the heart with songs that generally tend to focus on the affairs thereof. In short, whether you're moved by musical craftmanship or lyrics that pull on the heartstrings, his is music that can move you. I recommend picking up one of his records to give to someone for Valentine's Day. Everybody will win.
Check out the video for "All In Good Time" from Time Being.