b. Ronald Eldon Sexsmith, 8 January 1964, St. Catharine’s, Ontario, Canada. Formerly a motorcycle messenger, Toronto resident Sexsmith was first inspired by the music of Tim Hardin and other 60s singer-songwriters. By the age of 17 he was singing cover versions in local bars. Embarking on his own song cycles, he released 1991’s cassette only Grand Opera Lane (the album was eventually re-released on CD almost a decade later). Four years lapsed before Sexsmith teamed up with producer Mitchell Froom to record a proper debut, dedicated to the recently deceased Nilsson, which achieved almost universal press acclaim. Elvis Costello called it the best album of the year, and many others were attracted to the nakedness and intimacy of Sexsmith’s songwriting. Largely comprising basic percussion, minimal keyboards, acoustic guitar and Sexsmith’s fragile, understated voice, it proved a winning formula despite moderate sales.
Sexsmith was subsequently able to heighten his profile by supporting Richard Thompson on tour. The follow-up, 1997’s Other Songs, proffered another suite of strangely hesitant, downbeat narratives, the stand-out songs including “Child Star” and “Pretty Little Cemetery”. Whereabouts received excellent reviews and was an assured recording. This time around Sexsmith’s Tim Hardin influence came to the fore. On a number of the tracks the tone and delivery was chillingly similar. Blue Boy was another quality set of markedly livelier material, although the tone of the album seems to have moved Sexsmith out of the bedsitter into the living room.
The artist moved to yet another record label for the follow-up, Cobblestone Runway, released by Nettwerk America in 2002 (a beautifully mastered gatefold vinyl print was issued by Welsh label Diverse Vinyl the following year). Embellished with discrete electronics, the album was Sexsmith’s boldest musical statement to date. The equally accomplished Retriever followed in summer 2004.
Available to buy
180g Single LP.
6th February 2012