Name That Canadian!

Resonant with echoes of the Kinks and Brian Wilson.

I suppose it speaks volumes about the state of pop music that although this

is Ron Sexsmith's third fantastic album, almost no one knows who he is. This

relative anonymity wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that he's

Canadian, would it? From Gordon Lightfoot to Neil Young to Bryan Adams, the

Lower 48 used to have a generous history regarding Canadian-bred singer/

songwriters, but in the last decade that support does seem to have turned

into a gender thing. Maybe Ron should consider a sex change — then not

only would he be sure to get some media attention, he'd also be in line to

join the Great White North superstar women's team along with Celine Dion,

Alanis Morissette and Shania Twain.

Seriously though, speaking of a league of their own, it's hard to think of

another singer/ songwriter of the '90s who's exhibited the kind of growth

and consistency that Sexsmith has over the course of his commercially modest

but artistically impressive career. Unspoiled by the gushy words of both

colleagues (that not-too-shabby songwriter himself, Elvis Costello, paid

Sexsmith some Mojo-reported lip service upon the release of his first

major-label album) and critics (including yours truly, who raved about his

second effort, Other Songs, in People — What can I say?

I'm a pop kind of guy), Sexsmith has simply continued to just do his job

— writing and singing good songs, and doing it a little better each

time out.

Which brings us to Whereabouts, a collection that again displays

Sexsmith's uncanny ability to compose works that seep into your

consciousness via nuance and subtlety (not exactly the road taken by most of

your modern day tunesters). A good number of these songs — the

seesawing "Must Have Heard It Wrong" (RealAudio excerpt), the vignettish "The Idiot Boy" (RealAudio excerpt) and the

reeling, horn-aided "One Grey Morning" — have a decidedly Kinks-ish

atmosphere; certainly understandable, since Sexsmith is an avowed Ray Davies

influencee. Yet these songs stand firmly on their own stylistic rock/ pop/

folk leg, as do the album's fine ballads: the wistful "Seem to Recall," the

pastoral "Waterfall" and the album's timestopping centerpiece, the haunting

"In A Flash" (RealAudio excerpt). Each is filled with the kind of lilting melodies and touching

insights that help make this gentle-souled artist's music so unique and

rewarding. Show your ears some tender mercy and find out who Ron Sexsmith

is. You won't regret it.