If the waning of summer gives you a wistful pang, there's music to accompany your mood in the gentle melodies and angelic voice of singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith, a Canadian treasure who earns reams of praise from critics and fellow musicians such as Elvis Costello and Paul McCartney.
Born in 1964, Ronald Eldon Sexsmith grew up in the Niagara Falls area before moving to Toronto, where he formed a band called the Uncool, became a solo artist and subsidized his recording and performing ambitions while working a day job as a courier. An independently released solo collection, "Grand Opera Lane," helped earn Sexsmith a recording deal with Interscope Records, for which he released a self-titled debut in 1995. "Other Songs" appeared two years later, followed by "Whereabouts" and "Blue Boy." Moving to the Nettwerk label, Sexsmith released "Cobblestone Runway" and last year's "Retriever." His discography also includes appearances on more than a dozen compilations, tributes and soundtrack CDs.
Yet Sexsmith is still perhaps better known for having his tunes recorded by artists such as Rod Stewart, opera singer Anne Sofie von Otter and Glenn Tilbrook, the former Squeeze frontman with whom he collaborated on "The Incomplete Glenn Tilbrook."
While Sexsmith's catalog is packed with romantic ballads (check out "How on Earth" from "Retriever"), he isn't afraid to focus on social topics, as in "From Now On," a song by his own description "about vigilance in an age of fear-mongering 'prop-agenda.' "
This time around, Sexsmith is touring in support of a new CD, "Destination Unknown," which comes out Tuesday. The CD is credited to a duo called simply Sexsmith & Kerr. The Kerr in question is Don Kerr, Sexsmith's longtime musical collaborator (drummer, cellist, harmony vocalist) and former Sunwheel courier company workmate.
The duet CD, according to Sexsmith's own liner notes, wasn't planned. Most of the songs, he writes, were written about the same time as those on "Retriever," "but I could tell early on that this batch was a bit different and, for the longest time, I didn't know what to do with them."
Thinking back to his love of the Everly Brothers and the Louvin Brothers, he realized that, "all of these songs could benefit from a little two-part harmony." By the time Kerr had finished adding his own vocals, tenor guitar and drums, Sexsmith's solo work had morphed into a duo.
Though he calls it "a collection of misfit songs by a couple of misfits," the new CD holds all the pleasures of a typical Sexsmith recording, with the added benefit of his "brother in song." The pair's easy rapport bodes well for an evening of sweet, comforting music.
-- MARIANNE MEYER
Jammin' Java, 227 Maple Ave. East, Vienna. This all-ages venue offers general admission seating and a menu of sandwiches, chili, gourmet coffee, wine and beer. Singer/songwriter Ana Egge will open the show. Tickets are $12 and can be reserved by calling 703-255-1566 or by visiting www.jamminjava.com.
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