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For Ron Sexsmith, there’s always a trigger to an album, something that sets in motion the songs he’s writing not exactly as a concept, but certainly a theme or feel. His last album, Forever Endeavour, was born of a health scare while its predecessor Long Player, Late Bloomer was born of disillusionment. 2015’s Carousel One, however, finds Sexsmith in surprising territory for a man often pegged as a downbeat balladeer: he’s actually contented.

Self-deprecating almost to a fault, Ron has been a critical success ever since his self-titled debut back in 1995, winning the admiration of major league songwriters such as Elvis Costello and Paul McCartney along the way. Commercial success, however, has not been so forthcoming for the boy from the blue-collar town of St. Catharines, Ontario.

Long Player, Late Bloomer was a big, glossy sounding album, helmed by fabled producer Bob Rock, which Sexsmith followed up with the more acoustic Forever Endeavour in 2013. Carousel One however, sits somewhere between, with fulsome production but minus Bob Rock’s airbrushing. The result is a warm, deeply involving set of songs that showcases Sexsmith’s great empathy and occasional sentimentality, but also his often-overlooked playfulness. Although the sound and feel are inspired by ‘70s albums from the likes of Phoebe Snow and Gerry Rafferty, it’s a record that sounds very fresh and modern.

Carousel One (named for the luggage retrieval belt at Los Angeles airport where bags off Toronto flights are delivered) is probably Sexsmith’s most diverse album with songs that range from the rock-centric “Can’t Get My Act Together” to the laid-back swing of “Getaway Car.” Carousel One glides into 2015 with the poignancy and craft that has come to be expected of Ron Sexsmith.

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