I really don’t understand how I have managed to get to this stage of my life without ever having heard the music of Ron Sexsmith. I am familiar with the name but his work has sold me a dummy. Thank goodness I was able to put this right at an entertaining soirée on Friday.
He is one in a long line of Canadian singer/songwriters such as Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Anne Murray, Paul Anka, Leonard Cohen and, the already much missed, Gordon Lightfoot. The latter was a hero of Mr Sexsmith who never missed going to hear him at the annual Mariposa Festival in Canada and once had the honour of having Gordon Lightfoot listen to him at the event. Since Mr Lightfoot’s death on 1st May this year, Ron Sexsmith has always included one of his songs in the set, tonight it was Ribbon of Darkness sung beautifully and with obvious emotion. It got to me, anyway.
I am sure that he will forgive me if I say that a less rock’n’roll figure you could not meet, and judging by his self-effacing manner he seems to agree. He came across as one of the most charming people, an opinion seconded by the sound engineer at Howard Assembly Room who said it was a total pleasure doing the sound checks.
The setlist, which he had written on a couple of sheets of paper, one for each half, included gems from his full cannon with an obvious bias toward his new album; firstly because he was still proud of it, and secondly because COVID meant that he couldn’t tour it at the time of its release.
Although normally accompanied by two backing musicians, he is doing this itinerary on his own. This is another reason I wish I had been aware of his work earlier as witnessing an unplugged version of a song before you know the plugged one doesn’t really work. I am following my usual practice and listening to his originals on YouTube whilst writing this and they are so different.
His songs have been inspired by a wide range of subjects, from his handyman at the house, the death of Jeff Buckley and a strawberry blonde on the bus. The latter has a great beginning. ‘She wasn’t the girl next door, she lived round the corner.’ To see him sing this please go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IppSS_-PFGM
His most famous song is Whatever it Takes, not because he had a hit with it but the other world famous Canadian singer – no, not Bryan Adams – but Micheal Boublé covered it. Recognition indeed. If you would like to virtually share my experience then go to YouTube and listen to the that track, with the BBC logo on the preview photo, which has a cool introduction and while you are there try Get in Line, another solo rendition from the same show. I would love to share them with you but I can’t copy and paste because they were uploaded from a BBC programme and only available in the UK where we pay the licence fee, so my beloved readers not resident in the Kingdom probably won’t be able to see it at all. Actually I have just found this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdqlQPNeOQk which some naughty person recorded at the gig I was at.
Mr Sexsmith doesn’t only play guitar, he is no mean performer on the piano – behave! He said that during lockdown while everyone was learning how to make sourdough, he decided to improve his piano skills. The result is that he is a superb pianist, but he has no way of making a sandwich. That last sentence is my joke!
‘I have got Beethoven’s hair, but sadly not his talent!’
Having discovered this chap and his music I am determined to seek out more stuff of his, and, if I am browsing Amazon after a few glasses of wine on a Saturday night, I might splash out on a download. Did I just write that!?
To prove what a nice chap he is, at the end of the show he gave one setlist each to two of his fans, what a great memento.
For the rest of Ron Sexsmith’s UK Tour dates please go to https://www.ents24.com/uk/tour-dates/ron-sexsmith
To see what is coming up at Howard Assembly Room it is https://www.operanorth.co.uk/event-tag/har/
Feature image from Howard Assembly Room. Photographs by Stan Graham.