Why don't more people listen to Ron Sexsmith? The critically acclaimed singer-songwriter crafts masterful pop songs, records them with topflight producers and sings them in an understated croon. Unless you hate music that makes you smile, what's not to like?
Wanda Jackson may be the queen of rockabilly, but Jack White is king of this collaboration. The roots-obsessed producer takes charge, offering a high-octane reimagination of various '50s styles. But where White's work on Loretta Lynn's Van Lear Rose (2004) came off as reverent and almost subtle, here 73-year-old Jackson's presence seems like an afterthought.
Vic Chesnutt, who died of an overdose in 2009, was one of the best and most unusual songwriters of his generation. Country-rock veterans Cowboy Junkies are far more conventional. So Chesnutt diehards might not find much to like in this collection of his songs, but the album may provide newcomers a bridge to his work.
I’m not sure why I found it so endearing, the surgeon’s always saying, upon hearing his patient’s slightly hopeful rephrasing or reply just after he’s been told the how and the why of the surgery or recovery, a fine-mineral fear inset in optimism, “From your mouth to God’s ear.” The surgeon said it encouragingly, with a smile. Considering it, it took me only a little while to realize what it signified: “We can’t really know, but it’s good to hope so. Who knows? Let’s hope so. But also don’t mistake my taking of a measure, my neutral explanation. Elsewhere is your treasure or rescue, if any exists. Nothing is promised, either.” By then, I was content to drift in uncertainty’s ether.