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JUNO Award winning singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith returns to Halifax, with his latest album Carousel One, for a performance at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium on Monday, Feb. 15.
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, Sexsmith 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.
“I really didn’t expect the Long Player album to do as well as it did either. Not that it sold like "Lady Gaga" but it did do pretty well for me. It even led to us headlining the Royal Albert Hall in 2013,” said Sexsmith. “My career was given a much needed kick in the pants which I didn't see coming. I thought those days were gone for me, but it definitely reawakened a dormant fan base, especially in the UK. Since then, I feel like I've got my career back.”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.
Producer Jim Scott - introduced to Sexsmith by mutual friend Kevin Hearn from Barenaked Ladies - assembled a seasoned band to play on the album: bass player Bob Glaub, whose previous clients include John Lennon, Lucinda Williams, Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, Dolly Parton, Graham Nash and hundreds of others; guitarist Jon Graboff (Norah Jones, Ryan Adams); drummer Don Heffington (Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Lone Justice); and keyboard player John Ginty (Dixie Chicks,Whiskeytown, Neal Casal, Matthew Sweet).
The relaxed atmosphere undoubtedly spills over into the songs, particularly on the rockier tracks such as “Getaway Car” and “Can’t Get My Act Together”.
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, another “happy accident”. Songs like “No One” came from the idea of attempting to write in the vein of Roger Miller. Opening track “Sure As The Sky” originated as a folky campfire song but it turned into more of a folk/rock number.
“I guess the album is kind of a travelogue of music that I like which was mostly a happy accident,” said Sexsmith.
TICKETS GO ON SALE THIS FRIDAY, OCT. 2 AT 12 NOON.
Tickets are $36.50 in advance and $41.50 day of show (including tax and CIF) and will be available at the Dalhousie Arts Centre box office, by phone at (902) 494-3820 and online at www.sonicconcerts.com. Additional fees may apply. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.