Ron Sexsmith, "The Last Rider" (Compass Records)
Ron Sexsmith maintains his melodic consistency on "The Last Rider," 15 pop songs absorbed by the threat of loneliness and ways to avoid it.
The Canadian recorded his 13th solo album with his touring band, adding to its ease and intimacy. Sexsmith has said he thought this could be his final recording for some time, but the pleasure of the experience might make him reconsider.
Sexsmith is at his most romantic on "Evergreen," ''Our Way" and "Worried Song," his significant other appearing in different guises as the source of hope, security or inspiration.
"Radio" is low-voltage power pop about the days when young lives revolved around the AM/FM dial and "people could move you with just a voice and a song." Sexsmith sounds a little like Rufus Wainwright on the lighthearted "West Gwillimbury," also a trip down memory lane, as is "Breakfast Ethereal," about a "soft focus world where tomorrow seemed bright."
"Dreams Are Bigger" has a singalong chorus worthy of a long-distance dedication — "If your dreams are bigger than your worries, you'll never have to worry about your dreams" — with musical hints of New Orleans, while "Man at the Gate (1913)" was inspired by a postcard purchase and dwells on anonymous lives and connections across the years, also recurring themes in the Sexsmith catalogue .
There are no surprises here but don't be distracted by the apparent familiarity of some of the tunes. Sexsmith's range may not be wide but his aim is true.
Pablo Gorondi, The Associated Press