Ron Sexsmith – Exit Strategy Of The Soul (2008): Review

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Produced by Martin Terefe
Label – Kensaltown

It’s wholly obvious that an album with such a contemplative title as “Exit Strategy Of The Soul” should be bookended with an instrumental prologue and epilogue that neatly binds the content like any good movie title sequence. The fact is, that the two songs in question (“Spiritude” and “Dawn Anna”) snapshot Martin Terefe’s broad minded attempt to produce a resonantly fuller sound whilst retaining the intimacy of Sexsmith’s ornate vocal and succinct piano performance. The resultant recording works deliciously and Terefe must take a great deal of credit for this. For having recorded the basic tracks at his London studio, he decided to travel to Cuba to enlist the support of arranger Joaquin Betancourt, trombonist Amaury Perez and trumpeter Alexander Abreu who add a soulful backing, which the producer describes as “Shadow Gospel”. The horn enhancement comes to fruition immediately on the classy soul/pop love song “This Is How I Know”, a gushing celebration of the arrival of Divine Right guitarist Colleen Hixenbaugh in Sexsmith’s life. The collaboration with fellow Canadian Leslie Feist on “Brandy Alexander” is a gentle revelation, the affecting frivolity of the lyric and the simplicity of the melody leaves the listener hoping for further bar-room creativity from the duo. Feist had originally recorded the song on her “Reminder” album from the previous year, and even now, remains a delight.

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The air of spontaneity that flows throughout “Exit Strategy Of The Soul” is partly down to Terefe’s confidence in Sexsmith’s abilities. Many of the basic tracks were recorded with just piano and guide vocal, with other instrumental accompaniment added in whichever studio (London, New York, or Havana) they chose to complete their work. In anticipation for the Cuban sessions, Sexsmith wrote the climactic “Brighter Still” on the outbound flight which eventually would be recorded in one take, and the instinctive performance makes the listener feel like he/she is witness to an exciting musical discovery as the musicians intuitively construct the song before us. There’s a deep sense that Sexsmith knows his audience and their expectations and throughout the remainder of the album he delivers erstwhile tales of love and life in his unique unassuming vocal burr (which incidentally is getting better as he grows older).

Many may regard “Exit Strategy Of The Soul” as the highlight of Sexsmith’s long career. It’s certainly one of 2008’s rare heart-stoppers, but with such a high quality back catalogue the real question should be, “Why is it that Ron Sexsmith is not phenomenally successful?” There’s little justice in this cruel world.

8/10

Track Listing
“Spiritude” (instrumental) – 1:32
“This Is How I Know” – 3:52
“One Last Round” – 3:13
“Ghost of a Chance” – 3:40
“Thoughts and Prayers” – 2:55
“Brandy Alexander” – 3:29
“Traveling Alone” – 3:47
“Poor Helpless Dreams” – 3:53
“Hard Time” – 3:13
“The Impossible World” – 2:52
“Chased by Love” – 3:40
“Brighter Still” – 3:01
“Music to My Ears” – 3:43
“Dawn Anna” (instrumental) – 2:15

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9 responses to “Ron Sexsmith – Exit Strategy Of The Soul (2008): Review

  1. That is a great question- why hasn’t Ron been not been much more successful? His albums are consistently fine- he writes songs as well as anyone around in the past 20 years. Is he a man out of his time? Would he have been better served if he had been born 20 years earlier? I have been a fan since I first heard of him- the Blue Boy album produced by Steve Earle. Blue Boy remains my favorite Sexsmith album but an argument could be made for “Exit Strategy” or a half dozen others.

    • Totally agree, it baffles me. I’ve listened and enjoyed all of his albums over the years, and whilst reviewing this particular record came to the conclusion that his music he’s a victim of ignorance from the broadcast and written media. I’ve never heard a song of his on the radio and I rarely see his name in music magazines (occasionally British mags like Mojo). Such a shame really

      • I never thought of that either- I have never heard one of his songs on the radio either. Yes a neglected great talent–who just keeps going.. every year or so you can count on a new album! Saw him a couple times in concert and they were excellent also.

  2. Not someone I’m all that familiar with, but I’ve always liked what I’d heard (I checked him out after reading something about someone else who mentioned him – can’t mind who it was, but quite possibly Steve Earle?)

    Anyhoo, I’ll need to check this one out.

  3. Sexsmith has always been on the periphery of my playlists for some reason. I saw him live a few years ago and enjoyed it but apparently not enough to rush out to buy his stuff. Maybe it’s the mood of his tunes?

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