Ron Sexsmith has been writing great pop songs for so long it's hard to say why the man hasn't managed to make a great pop album; or, more accurately, one that would communicate his many virtues to listeners outside his cult of (mostly Canadian) admirers. Sexsmith has admirably refused to stay in one place stylistically, but the downside to this is a body of work that's impressive but not consistent enough in its vision to land him on the charts, and it didn't help at all that Sexsmith was clearly growing up in public as a performer on his first few records, which were full of marvelous tunes sung by a man who sounded as if he was afraid of the microphone. On Long Player Late Bloomer, Sexsmith seems to have finally made an album that's consistently strong and thoroughly user friendly; Bob Rock, the producer who helped bring Metallica and Motley Crue to the masses, wouldn't seem like a good choice to work with the guy who wrote "Strawberry Blonde," but Rock and Sexsmith prove to be an inspired pairing. Rock has assembled a crack band of session musicians to back Sexsmith, and the players (which include the great rock drummer Josh Freese and Travis Good of the Sadies on guitar) bring out the melodic strength of the songs and let them shine without burying them in gingerbread; the result is an album that sounds smart, engaging, and thoroughly approachable. Sexsmith sounds fully confident and at ease as a vocalist on these 13 songs, never overplaying but revealing the warmth and subtle strength he's gained as a singer over the years. And as usual, Sexsmith has written a handful of great songs for these sessions, sadly sweet meditations on life and love that reflect life's ups and downs without sounding dour or gloomy (a state that Sexsmith's voice can reflect if he's not careful). Sexsmith doesn't do anything on Long Player Late Bloomer that he hasn't done before, but this time out, he's had the right help in the studio to make an album that will sound as good to casual observers as his dedicated fans, and that's what sets this apart: if you've ever wanted to introduce yourself to the work of one of the finest songwriters in North America, Long Player Late Bloomer is just the album to get.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming