Friday, July 10, 2020


Ron's sweet voice and vulnerable innocent persona has most observers having him better not waiting for anything. Or at least not for anything better, his songs always redolent of disappointment and deprecation. And that's the cheerful ones. So is this lyric a sense of realisation or an acceptance of the inevitable let-down? A bit of both, that sinking realisation that love has gone sour, perhaps just as you were thinking about something else for a moment. As in, take your eye off the ball for a second and, pfff, it's gone, his hope being that, if you wait long enough, somehow it will come back into view. Hmmm, we know that outcome, don't we?

I'm a big fan of ol' Ron, always have been, through the thin and thin of his career. No, that's a tad harsh, but he's never seemed able to get that great big breakthrough, despite the acclaim of many of his peers, on the arrival of theirs. Elvis Costello has always been his biggest yay-sayer, but others have been not slow to sing his praises. Fellow Canadian k.d. lang included him on her tribute to canadian songwriters, Hymns of the 37th Parallel, and how many others ever got to sing with Leonard Cohen? Critics often tumble praise his way but the public have never followed to make him much more than a niche favourite. With his big hangdog face, like a lovelorn potato, his looks may never have catapulted him into stardom, but Elvis C is hardly any oil painting either. He has made no secret of his struggles maintaining a career and the effects on his mood, life and relationships: in the  wonderful documentary, Love Shines, made in 2010, this aspect is certainly not brushed away.

His songs have a delightful charm. Deceptively simple, they carry largely on guitar or piano, and often little more, with his yearning voice always shimmering above, sometimes redolent of Roy Orbison, tragedy closer to triumph in minor chord lamentations of love's labours lost. You sense, whatever else, he just has to sing, to keep on singing. If his near twenty recordings aren't enough and, like me, are a covers lover, you could do a whole lot worse than check out his youtube channel. Did I say Roy Orbison?

I first caught him, last century, in a special showcase at Ronnie Scott's Club in Birmingham, UK, now long gone. Part of a tour to promote his first full release, the eponymous Ron Sexsmith, it was a double header with the similarly "new" Dar Williams, taking turns as to who would play first. It was marvellous, each nailing a place in my tastes and on my shelves, each lasting to this day. Like Costello, I would rave about him to friends and family, but to little shared enthusiasm. I think I bought his first few releases until a change of producer skewed his style, to my ears any way. Thereafter I kept an ear out, spotting him mingling with the stars: Chris Martin, Ray Davies, if never quite joining their leagues. Round about the aforementioned doco, made during the making of Long Player Late Bloomer, a then mooted last ditch for world domination, helmed by big money producer Bob Rock, I formally rejoined team Ron. And it was/is a superlative record, if surprisingly using added autotune: surely the point of Ron's famously wobbly voice is that it is famously wobbly? It didn't go platinum, but it did sell a fair few, enabling him to keep going, with another album dropping every other year or so, right up until this years Hermitage. I had been due to revisit my acquaintance with his live show back in April, but, yep, like everything else, C-19 killed that until November. All willing.

So, I'm Still Waiting.

All the Rons.

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