Ron Sexsmith, Brook Waggoner | City Winery | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Ron Sexsmith, Brook Waggoner Soundboard Recommended Image

When: Thu., April 11, 8 p.m. 2013

Canadian pop craftsman Ron Sexsmith made a deliberate effort to score a hit with his previous album, 2011’s Long Player Late Bloomer—he and onetime Metallica producer Bob Rock tailored its hard-hitting arrangements for maximum accessibility. For the terrific new Forever Endeavor (Cooking Vinyl), though, Sexsmith reunites with producer Mitchell Froom, who graces the album’s elegant melodies with sophisticated orchestrations that soften the sting of the lyrics. Album opener “Nowhere to Go” is three minutes of inescapable hopelessness bedecked with acoustic guitars, French horn, and swelling strings: “It’s like you’re stuck in a painting,” Sexsmith sings, “Unable to cry or to make a sound / And there’s nowhere to go but down.” The rest of the songs aren’t so bleak—“She Does My Heart Good” and “The Morning Light” even flirt with contentment and happiness—but as always, misery and pain are Sexsmith’s baseline. The guarded optimism in “If Only Avenue” and “Snake Road,” for example, springs from decisions to cut losses and learn from mistakes, but the tentative, almost fragile delivery of the line “I’m saying good-bye to bad advice” makes it ring hollow. This kind of tension between a narrator’s thoughts and the reality portrayed by a song has always made Sexsmith’s writing compelling—that and his effortlessly beautiful melodies and sleepy, honeyed voice. —Peter Margasak Brooke Waggoner opens.

Price: $22-28