Canadian troubadour Ron Sexsmith has been making critics swoon with his melancholy-kissed, heartfelt song writing now for over 30 years. Tracks like Speaking With An Angel and Strawberry Blonde pegged the artist as a thoughtful, sympathetic musician whose expression was, more often than not, enveloped in a flood of sadness. While his legacy of honest song writing lives in on his 14th studio album, Sexsmith has discovered a new contentment that is a welcomed addition to his prolific career.
Named for the luggage retrieval belt at LAX that delivers bags from Toronto flights, Carousel One immediately introduces us to Sexsmith’s often-overlooked playful side. Opener Sure As The Sky offers messages of quiet confidence and optimism (Sure as the sun is, I know what I’m shining for / Sure as the sky is wide, to hold every prayer inside / As sure as the sky is, I know things are looking up) alongside jangly guitars and jaunty organ melodies. Early highlight Saint Bernard is a mid-tempo, inviting, rocker, which indulges in metaphors that are as childlike as they are whimsically poetic.
The LP continues to explore the crooner’s emerging cheerfulness with several upbeat tracks including the buoyant Before The Light Is Gone, offering a mature but unswervingly positive perspective on life. No One puts Sexsmith’s wry humour on display, initially disguising this pluck under the singer’s characteristic despondency. While Getaway Car navigates the popular Bonnie and Clyde narrative with a swaggering blues groove. Lucky Penny, too, is a beautifully crafted song, which makes perfect use of that enticing, shimmering organ sound.
Carousel One, however, is not all sun and roses. Sexsmith serves up that recognisable and irresistible yearning in tracks like the soulful Nothing Feels The Same Anymore, an exquisite, aching, track brimming with a regret only made more heartrending by the song’s weeping descending guitar riff. He continues this downtrodden path of emotional lows with the devastating Many Times, and the sweet nostalgia of All Our Tomorrows, essential Sexsmith odes to love and heartbreak.
With Carousel One Ron Sexsmith has given us his most sonically and emotionally diverse effort to date. The artist remains as sincere and connected as always, and proves that happiness and contentment can breed the same artistic integrity as grief. We can only hope that Carousel One will be the album that finally matches his commercial success with his unwavering critical praise.