Wherever you go, there you are. It’s as true for eternal pop underdog Ron Sexsmith as for anybody else.
So even though the critically beloved but commercially underperforming singer-songwriter recently abandoned his longtime Toronto digs for a simpler life in Stratford, his 16th studio album Hermitage is still very much a Sexsmith album, with all the charming melodies, clever lyrics and sublime elegance you know, love, demand and expect. What’s new this time: 1) Ron plays nearly all the instruments himself a la Paul McCartney (and does a damned fine job of it to boot); 2) despite its tongue-in-cheek title, the disc has a surprisingly sunny, more positive vibe than much of his work. Looks like Ron made the right move.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Canada’s most accomplished singer-songwriter, Ron Sexsmith has returned with new music. Hermitage is his first since moving from his longtime home of Toronto to a more bucolic life in Stratford, Ontario.
Ron partnered with producer Don Kerr to create Hermitage; the two set up in Ron’s living room to record the album, with Ron playing all the instruments except the drums. This album marks Ron’s 25th year as a recording artist. At 56, Sexsmith has made a most unlikely discovery: domestic bliss. All it took, it turns out, was leaving the city he loved. Following 30 years as an emblem of Toronto’s west end, he reluctantly uprooted to the serene hamlet of Stratford and the melodic, playful, theatrically vivacious Hermitage came gushing out.
“Almost immediately after arriving here I just felt this kind of enormous stress cloud evaporate and all these songs started coming,” recalls Sexsmith. “I’d walk along the river every day into town and feel like Huckleberry Finn or something. It had a really great effect on my overall state of being.”
Further reflecting Sexsmith’s new confidence, Hermitage is the first album on which he played nearly all the instruments, an idea he credits to producer and longtime drummer Don Kerr. “Don said ‘Why don’t you make one of those sort of Paul McCartney-type records?’ and it’s like a light bulb went on over my head,” he says. “That had never occurred to me.”
The result is the songwriter’s most self-assured collection, still charmingly subtle yet increasingly full of musical vigor, as on Chateau Mermaid, an ode to his own Stratford Graceland, or the surprisingly hopeful Small Minded World, (originally penned for the Addams Family film), in which Sexsmith croons, ‘Oh now don’t feel blue ‘cos they don’t get you, you’ll win this small minded world.’
“I think it’s a very upbeat album, lyrically,” he confirms. “It’s reflective of the sort of peacefulness that I’d recently felt. I’m getting more comfortable in my own skin.”