Saturday, April 09, 2011

Ron Sexsmith dazzles with songcraft at Largo

Photo credit: Natasha Bardin

Ron Sexsmith closed out the first leg of a U.S. tour in support of his latest album Long Player Late Bloomer with a splendid show at Largo @ The Coronet in Los Angeles on Friday (April 8) night.

After hearing the Canadian artist perform almost two dozen original songs before a sold-out crowd, it's clear that 12 albums into Sexsmith's recording career he ranks as one of the best songwriters of the modern rock era.
While widespread success has eluded the Juno Award winner in this country - despite a seemingly-endless string of wonderful recordings - that is finally starting to change thanks to some exposure on influential radio stations like KCRW 89.9 and a 2010 documentary "Love Shines" that won honors at SXSW last month in Austin. That film offers up an exploration of Sexsmith's skills as a songwriter and chronicles the making of his latest album.

Fast forward to his show in the intimate Largo @ The Coronet, and the magic of introspective tales wrapped up in accessible and artful musical layers that reveal more with each listen played out like a classic film.
Indeed, the full length of his journey as a songwriter with the sparse "Wastin' Time" (off his 1995 self-titled debut) and similarly-affecting "Strawberry Blonde" (with mandolin courtesy of Tim Bovaconti enhancing Sexsmith's unique acoustic guitar play) helped provide the back story leading up to his richly-orchestrated songs on more recent collections (notably 2004's Retriever and 2007's Time Being).

Country-tinged tunes ("Get In Line"), a beautiful baroque ballad ("Nowadays"), artful Crowded House-meets-George Harrison pop ("Love Shines," "Believe It When I See It") and genre-defying pop-rock (the upbeat "Middle of Love") each allowed Sexsmith and his fine 4-man band to get a little closer to the intangible and ghostly muse Sexsmith commands.
While his fast-paced 90-minute set didn't allow him to highlight many of his best songs ("Wishing Wells" was not played Friday), "Hard Bargain," "Secret Heart" and "Hands of Time" provided additional evidence in showcasing his wide-ranging approach as a songwriter and singer.
Near the end of his concert, Sexsmith told the crowd that he hoped to bring his current tour back to the U.S. soon. It would be great if that future outing brings Sexsmith's brilliant variety of songs somewhere to Orange County.

Opening the show was singer-songwriter Caitlin Rose. Armed with a distinctive soprano voice, and confessional material delivered via a traditional country sound that recalls Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn, highlights of the Nashville-born artist's six-song set included the melodic "For the Rabbits" and "Learnin' to Ride."

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