The quandary of the whole solo singer/songwriter thing is that one listener's deeply personal and affecting music is another's boringly self-absorbed slop. And the fine line between them, between naked emotion and unadulterated pap, is the production, its intent, and above all, the talent trapped in it -- so highly exposed, after all. In this second LP by Sexsmith, it's clear he's a composer of ability, as his lyrics have a quietly moving air and his delicate picking and fingering of his acoustic silently charms. The drums bubble so lightly in the back you never notice them, and the pretty piano on tracks such as "Average Joe" is employed with grace. Best of all, Sexsmith's voice is a dead ringer for 1966-1967 Tim Hardin (circa his best work, Tim Hardin I and Tim Hardin II), only without Hardin's more breathy trills (and without the late legend's incredible, arrestingly sweet melancholia, woeful lamentation, and bleeding heart). Sexsmith's throat is smoky menthol, yet gentle and soothing, the kind that wraps around the melodies like a mother's most serene lullaby. Maybe there's a little 1971 Jackson Browne in Sexsmith, too, only without the reedy dweebness. On the negative side, ubiquitous producer Mitchell Froom elicits nice takes but envelops them in a slightly glossy sheen. He makes Sexsmith fall in line with so much ho-hum singer/songwriter pop, when the playing and singing suggested more direct emotional immediacy, like Hardin, or young Neil Young, or the late-'60s Paul Simon before he regrettably lost his Garfunkel. That Sexsmith has the stuff to overcome such sanitation for listeners' protection is a credit to a modest prize at work. And love that mellifluous voice.
Other Songs Review
by Jack Rabid