I was really thrilled to see the Ron Sexsmith documentary Love Shines on BBC4 recently. I've long been an admirer of Ron's and it fills me with happiness to see him receiving some sort of mainstream media attention. After hearing that Bob Rock was producing his new album I was worried that the documentary might be an exploitative train wreck, but I found it to be a really sensitive reflection of his life and music.
Ron has always felt like some sort of long lost brother to me. There's a fragility in his voice and a humbleness to his personality that has always made me love him dearly. It's weird, in this day and age, that those attributes are the very things that hinder him from being a commercially viable artist. I often feel that Ron is too easily swayed by what others want of him or what he feels he needs to be doing in order to have a hit record. Some songs have suffered from his producer's attempts to make him sound contemporary. Despite this, the beauty and honesty of Ron's songs always shines through. I can understand Ron's preoccupation with wanting a larger audience, we all need to put bread on the table, but I'm not sure it would be in his best interests on a personal level. Having to deal with all the bullshit that comes hand-in-hand with being a commercial artist could be disastrous for someone who professes to be plagued by low self-esteem.
Ron's audience has always confused me. I sincerely thought I'd turned up at the wrong show when I dragged Emma and Guy along to see him in Sheffield for the first time. The audience was full of men in their 50s and I felt well and truly out of place. It's been exactly the same the five or six times I've seen him since. I've never really been able to understand this phenomenon as I don't consider Ron's music to be middle-of-the-road necessarily. Perhaps it is, I just find it difficult to think in those terms.
There's a very natural beauty to his melodies and lyrics and an incredible weight of honesty in his emotive voice. More than anything, though, I think the integrity of his songwriting is really the key to his appeal. I could list ten songs right off the top of my head that I absolutely adore and I would imagine his songs have been on 90% of the mixes I've made in the last ten years.
You can download four songs I've recorded at Ron shows over the years HERE
I love this performance (shown right) of "Just My Heart Talking" on the Jools Holland show from 2001.