Monday, October 22, 2007

"Some Dusty Things" / Ron Sexsmith

My thing for Ron Sexsmith has been growing exponentially since I saw him open for Nick Lowe out in the Midwest a couple weeks ago. At the show, I bought his latest CD, Time Being, a wonderful album I've been playing pretty constantly ever since. It just happens to be a very spiritual, very consoling album -- and consolation's what I've needed lately.

So of course I took Time Being with me on a road trip last weekend -- and left it in the rental car when I turned it in. Somewhere, some Avis renter in Pennsylvania is now discovering the magic of Ron Sexsmith. Well, so it goes. I've got my replacement copy ordered already, and luckily I'd downloaded it all onto my computer to get me through.

"Some Dusty Things" is perfect proof of how Ron Sexsmith's music can heal the soul -- there's no proselytizing here, no haranguing, just a tender rumination on life's fleeting joys, set to a gently rocking acoustic beat. It starts out taking a cosmic view: "The world is a very small place / And before we know / We're back in our own space" (not like personal space, but some hazy spirit-matter limbo). So what anchors us in the here and now? "Some dusty things to remind us all / Of our time on earth," Sexsmith declares, "How sweet and precious it was / And we will never be the same." It's so simple, and so perfect.

At first I picture an attic full of dust-furred relics, trunks and scrapbooks and old rocking chairs. (And of course that obligatory dressmaker's dummy, featured in every cartoon attic.) But Ron never gets specific about those "dusty things" -- until I begin to realize he means US. As in ashes to ashes, dust to dust -- we are the dusty things that human hearts attach to. In verse two, he adds: "For love is a very small word / It's easy to say, but seldom is heard / Above the war that lives on and on / In the hearts of men." And in verse three, he narrows it down even more: "The world is a very hard place / When lost in a crowd, you search for a kind face / Some trusting soul to confide in, / Arms we can hide in, too." I'm getting verklempt.

The melody soars yearningly into the bridge: "Have no fear, / We are nearing the end / We'll just drink to old friends." Ron's high choirboy vocal cracks just a little here and there, which is so damn endearing I can't stand it. (That little trill on "small place," "small word," and "hard place" gets me too.) What's so great about Ron Sexsmith's music is how the whole package matches up, emotive tunes and soulful lyrics and that exquisitely sweet voice. Magic, indeed.

I read in an interview that when Ron was writing Time Being, a couple of his friends died, and the album is at least partly his response to those deaths. As you'd expect, there's not a false emotional note here -- just a modest, genuine reflection on this mortal coil. In the grip of grief, it's just what we need.

Some Dusty Things sample

1 comment:

Julie said...

Lovely. Your description captures his appeal very well.