Ron Sexsmith | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Ron Sexsmith has been reinvigorated by love--or so he suggests in the liner notes to his new album, Cobblestone Runway (Nettwerk), where he thanks one Colleen Hixenbaugh for "taking my heart by surprise." Too bad this newfound happiness seems to have defanged him as a lyricist. In "Former Glory" he promises, "Though the cold north wind may blow / It's all sound and fury / And the summer will return in its former glory," and in "God Loves Everyone" he claims just that. A few songs do wriggle free of this Pollyannaish worldview--"These Days" takes aim at the way Hollywood's sentimental view of love suffocates the public imagination, while "Dragonfly on Bay Street," driven by ill-fitting house beats, indulges in a bit of existential soul-searching. Sexsmith's still got a knack for subtle yet indelible melodies, but Martin Terefe's soft-focus production muffles his already delicate voice. Only the spunky "Disappearing Act," a tune that wouldn't be out of place in Elvis Costello's repertoire, gives Sexsmith the structure his laconic delivery requires to be effective. But he's a great performer, with a droll sense of humor, and all these songs ought to improve in a stripped-down live setting. Tuesday, November 5, 9 PM, Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln; 773-404-9494.

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