Ron Sexsmith | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Ron Sexsmith 

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On 2002's Cobblestone Runway, Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith was so euphoric about his new love that his usually lacerating wit seemed about as dangerous as a butter knife. He's still counting his blessings on the new Retriever (Nettwerk), spelling out the many ways his partner brings out the best in him, but on tunes like "Hard Bargain" and "Not About to Lose" he looks at both sides of the coin, reminding himself that a good relationship alone won't lead to happiness--and that he can wreck his own contentment if he doesn't maintain a positive outlook. Elsewhere he faces the ugliness of the world outside: in "For the Driver" he identifies with people most of us condemn by reflex (the title character accidentally hits a child who chases a ball into the street), and in "Wishing Wells" he sneers at those who blind themselves with false optimism ("I fear sometimes / We ain't got a hope in hell / I've half a mind to hang the next fool / To wish me well"). Although Martin Terefe, whose gauzy production didn't do the ballad-heavy Runway any favors, is at the board again, this time there's real vitality in the arrangements. "Whatever It Takes" rides on a plush Philly soul groove, "Not About to Lose" floats amid a Technicolor swirl of strings and electric guitar, and "Happiness" sounds like a lost Sam Cooke pop gem. David Mead opens. Monday, May 17, 7 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508.

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