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Sexsmith's new album shakes off the melancholy

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By Rege Behe
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
 

In the documentary film about Ron Sexsmith, "Love Shines," Elvis Costello casts the Canadian musician in the same realm as one of rock 'n' roll's historic performers.

"I think Ron has got one of the purest seams of melody, that he has access to exclusively, since Paul McCartney," Costello says.

There's no higher praise, but some folks are undoubtedly saying "Who's Ron Sexsmith?"

Appearing Thursday at Club Cafe, South Side, Sexsmith's work has been championed by Costello, Steve Earle, Chris Martin, Thom Yorke and McCartney himself. He's just released a fantastic album, "Long Player Late Bloomer," which features the production of Bob Rock, best known for his work with Metallica, Bon Jovi and Motley Crue. The biopic "Love Shines" premiered recently at South By Southwest, and Sexsmith made a national television appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"

Sexsmith admits he's excited, a far cry from the melancholy that haunted him after his previous album, "Exit Strategy of the Soul," more or less tanked. When Rock agreed to produce "Long Player" Sexsmith's joy was leavened by a sense of disbelief.

"I was at a low point and I was afraid to make another record," Sexsmith says. "I guess I was surprised (Rock agreed to work with him). But people around me were saying of course he wants to work with you: You're Ron Sexsmith! But that didn't register with me, because of where my head was at.

"And I knew that people would find it an unlikely pairing, but I knew that we would have more common ground than people might suspect."

"Long Player" defines itself musically from the opening notes of the first song, "Get in Line." Vibrant and engaging, it's a warm pop antidote for any lingering cold weather.

But the music's buoyancy might occlude some lyrics reflecting the opposite end of the emotional spectrum. One can imagine Hamlet spouting lines such as "I've been learning all my lessons the hard way/and nursing the exit wound" from "No Help at All."

"I didn't do that intentionally, but I like when it happens," Sexsmith says. "It's sort of a happy accident. I think Ray Davies was the master of that, and he's probably one of my biggest influences, so it's probably rubbed off on me. It's nice when you can have the lyrics at odds with the melody; it's a nice sort of tension."

The experience of recording with Rock and noted session players such as guitarist Rusty Anderson of Paul McCartney's band, drummer Josh Freese (Nine Inch Nails, A Perfect Circle) and bassist Paul Bushnell (LL Cool J, Elton John) seems to have rejuvenated Sexsmith. After attending South By Southwest for a screening of "Love Shines," he embarked on an ambitious tour that will eventually take him to Europe.

"It's cool to have an album with a glow around it," he says. "I'm going out with my band and we're going to have a tour bus, and I'm probably going to lose my shirt on it because it's so expensive to tour. But I wanted to try to, not duplicate the record, but come close at least."

Additional Information:

Ron Sexsmith

With: Caitlin Rose

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Admission: $12

Where: Club Cafe, South Side

Details: 412-431-4950 or www.clubcafelive.com

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