Ron Sexsmith's 13th album, The Last Rider, is a stunner. The Toronto-based musician's gift to music lovers all these years has been relentless consistency. But this time around feels different, in a good way — Sexsmith has pulled a set from the ether and charted a new path.
Maybe it's because Sexsmith, after working with some of the industry's best producers, has taken the producing reigns himself, along with his long-time collaborator and drummer Don Kerr. Maybe it's because Sexsmith has, for the first time, made an album with his regular touring band. It certainly couldn't have hurt that the record was recorded mostly at the Tragically Hip's studio near Kingston.
Fact is, the arrangements here are so lush, so nuanced, that what might have felt like a departure in the studio ends up sounding vintage. Fans know that Sexsmith usually reaches for the personal without dwelling in the grim, combining poignancy and lyrical grace with pithy, beautiful, guitar vignettes. There's more going on, though, in each of the 15 tracks here.
On songs like "Breakfast Ethereal," "West Gwillimbury," "Evergreen" and "Every Last One," the gentle-voiced troubadour captures a compelling sense of old beginnings, new endings, and hope. "Won't you help me please/ To sing my worried song/ If you add some harmonies/ I won't be worried long," sings Sexsmith.
The Last Rider is a gorgeous record, hazy and honeyed, which sounds and feels like a remastered '70s folk-pop classic. Wherever Sexsmith found the inspiration, let's hope there's more where this came from. (Warner)