Carousel One

Carousel One

Release Date: 2015

Label: Warner Music Canada/WEA (Canada), Compass Records (USA), Cooking Vinyl (UK and all other territories)

For Ron Sexsmith, there’s always a trigger to an album, something that sets in motion the songs he’s writing not exactly as a concept, but certainly a theme or feel. His last album, Forever Endeavour, was born of a health scare while its predecessor Long Player, Late Bloomer was born of disillusionment. 2015’s Carousel One, however, finds Sexsmith in surprising territory for a man often pegged as a downbeat balladeer: he’s actually contented.

“Oh I hope so. Long Player was quite a grumpy record,” Sexsmith says. “It was uptempo musically but lyrically… not so much. I didn’t realize until we were putting the songs together for Carousel One that this would be more outgoing, there’s a lot more humour. I mean, there’s even a smiling picture on the cover, which I’ve never had before. I just hope it doesn’t scare the children.”

Self-deprecating almost to a fault, Ron has been a critical success ever since his self-titled debut back in 1995, winning the admiration of major league songwriters such as Elvis Costello and Paul McCartney along the way. Commercial success, however, has not been so forthcoming for the boy from the blue-collar town of St. Catharines, Ontario.

“Well,” he chuckles, “I guess I was chasing stardom at one point, but then I stopped. To be honest, I think the lack of commercial success has been more annoying to the folks around me. I sometimes get people saying ‘Why aren’t you playing stadiums?’ Well, it’s certainly no mystery to me why I’m not. It’s just not that kind of music. I really didn’t expect the Long Player album to do as well as it did either. Not that it sold like “Lady Gaga” but it did do pretty wellfor me. It even led to us headlining the Royal Albert Hall in 2013. My career was given a much needed kick in the pants which I didn’t see coming. I thought those days were gone for me, but it definitely reawakened a dormant fan base, especially in the UK. Since then, I feel like I’ve got my career back.”

Long Player, Late Bloomer was a big, glossy sounding album, helmed by fabled producer Bob Rock, which Sexsmith followed up with the more acoustic Forever Endeavour in 2013. Carousel One however, sits somewhere between, with fulsome production but minus Bob Rock’s airbrushing. The result is a warm, deeply involving set of songs that showcases Sexsmith’s great empathy and occasional sentimentality, but also his often-overlooked playfulness. Although the sound and feel are inspired by ‘70s albums from the likes of Phoebe Snow and Gerry Rafferty, it’s a record that sounds very fresh and modern.

“That may be because of how quickly we made it,” the singer explains. “I only had the musicians for five days so we recorded 16 tracks in that time. We were recording within 10 minutes of me walking in the door. I’ve never been a fan of being in the studio, but I do love it when the music is actually happening, and those were action-packed days.”

Producer Jim Scott – introduced to Ron by mutual friend Kevin Hearn from Barenaked Ladies – assembled a seasoned band to play on the album: bass player Bob Glaub, whose previous clients include John Lennon, Lucinda Williams, Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, Dolly Parton, Graham Nash and hundreds of others; guitarist Jon Graboff (Norah Jones, Ryan Adams); drummer Don Heffington (Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Lone Justice); and keyboard player John Ginty (Dixie Chicks,Whiskeytown, Neal Casal, Matthew Sweet).

The relaxed atmosphere undoubtedly spills over into the songs, particularly on the rockier tracks such as ‘Getaway Car’ and ‘Can’t Get My Act Together’.

 “I’ve been sort of pigeonholed as a balladeer which I never really understood,” Ron says, “maybe I’m not as convincing when I try to ‘rock out’ sometimes. At home I listen to mostly ‘50s radio, I really love the way those songs kinda swing and so that’s what I was trying to do on ‘Getaway Car’.”

Carousel One (named for the luggage retrieval belt at Los Angeles airport where bags off Toronto flights are delivered) is probably Sexsmith’s most diverse album, another “happy accident”. Songs like ‘No One’ came from the idea of attempting to write in the vein of Roger Miller. Opening track ‘Sure As The Sky’ originated as a folky campfire song but it turned into more of a folk/rock number.

“I was writing that one and thinking of how Judy Collins did the song ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’ before The Byrds had recorded it and how they went and turned it into something more anthemic”

‘Saint Bernard’ meanwhile, is a tribute to an anonymous family dog from a photograph picked up in a second-hand shop by Ron’s wife, Colleen. It’s the perfect example of how he can make even a wistful, nostalgic song turn with a touch of humour, equating the dog that saves him as his own personal minibar.

“They’ve always been my favourite type of dog. I was sitting in the kitchen one day playing guitar, I had this melody but no lyrics, so I looked up at the picture and just started singing the opening lines. I guess the album is kind of a travelogue of music that I like which was mostly a happy accident”

So, here’s to happy accidents; raise a glass to Ron Sexsmith’s Carousel One and his new-found contentment.

Past Shows

2016 Carousel One - Canadian Tour
  • February 11
    Capitol Theatre Moncton, NB

  • February 12
    Imperial Theatre Saint John, NB

  • February 13
    Union Street Cafe Berwick, NS

  • February 15
    Rebecca Cohn Auditorium Halifax, NS

  • February 16
    Holy Heart Theatre St. John’s, NL

  • February 20
    Gesu Montreal, QB

  • February 24
    Market Centre Theatre Woodstock, ON

  • February 25
    Starlight Club Waterloo, ON

  • February 26
    FirstOntario  Arts Centre St. Catharines, ON

  • April 30
    Crystal Palace Picton, ON

  • July 24
    Banff Centre Banff, AB

  • August 11
    Peter’s Players Gravenhurst, ON

  • August 16
    Heritage Theatre Woody Point, NL

  • Sept 9
    Massey Hall Toronto, ON

  • Sept 10
    Hamilton Place Theatre Hamilton, ON

2015 Carousel One - International Tour
  • April 2
    City Winery New York NY

  • April 4
    City Winery Nashville TN

  • April 6
    Old Town School Chicago IL

  • April 8
    The Cedar Minneapolis, MN

  • April 25
    Collins Recital Hall, GPRC Grande Prairie AB

  • April 30
    Molson Canadian Studio Hamilton, ON

  • May 1
    Peter’s Players Gravenhurst, ON

  • May 2
    Massey Hall Toronto, ON

  • May 4
    Aeolian Hall London, ON

  • May 6
    The Temple Room Barrie, ON

  • May 7
    Midland Cultural Centre Midland, ON

  • May 8
    Meaford Hall Meaford, ON

  • May 9
    National Arts Centre Ottawa, ON

  • June 2
    Largo Los Angeles, CA

  • June 3
    The Casbah San Diego, CA

  • June 4
    The Coach House San Juan Capistrano, CA

  • June 5
    Hotel Utah San Francisco, CA

  • June 7
    WOW Hall Eugene, OR

  • June 8
    Star Theater Portland, OR

  • June 9
    The Triple Door Seattle, WA

  • June 11
    Baur’s Listening Lounge Denver, CO

  • June 15
    New Morning Paris, FR

  • June 17
    El Patio de Armas Zaragoza, ES

  • June 18
    Teatro Lara Madrid, ES

  • June 19
    Auditoria Alhondiga Bilbao, ES

  • June 20
    Luz de Gas Barcelona, ES

  • June 22
    Empire Music Hall Belfast, IE

  • June 23
    Whelan’s Dublin, IE

  • June 25
    Art School Glasgow Glasgow, UK

  • June 26
    Mill Volvo Tyne Theatre Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK

  • June 27
    RNCM-Studio Theatre Manchester, UK

  • June 28
    Glastonbury Festival Glastonbury, UK

  • June 29
    St. George’s Bristol, UK

  • June 30
    Royal Festival Hall London, UK

  • July 2
    Doornoosje Nijmegen, NL

  • July 3
    Paradiso Noord Amsterdam, NL

  • July 5
    Heimathafen Neukölln Berlin, DE

  • July 6
    Stadtgarten Cologne Cologne, DE

  • August 8
    Ontario Celebration Zone Toronto, ON

  • Sept 18
    Mountain Stage Marais, MN

  • Sept 20
    Toronto Urban Roots Fest Toronto, ON

  • Sept 23
    Rio Theatre Vancouver, BC

  • Sept 24
    Dream Cafe Penticton, BC

  • Sept 25
    Spirit Bar Nelson, BC

  • Sept 26
    Arden St. Albert, AB

  • Sept 28
    Theatre Junction Grand Calgary, AB

  • Sept 29
    Broadway Theatre Saskatoon, SK

  • Sept 30
    Exchange Regina, SK

  • October 1
    WECC Winnipeg, MB

  • October 7
    The Pav Cork, IE

  • October 8
    Dolans Warehouse Limerick, IE

  • October 9
    Roisin Dubh Galway, IE

  • October 11
    Glee Club Cardiff, GB

  • October 12
    Glee Club Nottingham, UK

  • October 13
    Memorial Hall Sheffield, UK

  • October 15
    Pleasance Theatre Edinburgh, GB

  • October 16
    Brudenhall Social Club Leeds, UK

  • October 17
    Arts Centre Pocklington, UK

  • October 18
    Trades Hall Hebden Bridge, UK

  • October 20
    Epstein Theatre Liverpool, UK

  • October 21
    Glee Club Birmingham, UK

  • October 22
    Junction 2 Cambridge, UK

  • October 24
    Union Chapel London, UK

  • October 25
    Joiners Southampton, UK

  • October 26
    Komedia Brighton, UK

  • October 27
    St. Mary’s Church Ashford, UK

  • October 29
    Opderschmelz Dudelange, LU

  • October
    Jazzhaus Freiburg, DE

  • Nov 1
    Muffatwerk/Ampere Munich, DE

  • Nov 2
    E-Werk Erlangen, DE

  • Nov 3
    Brotfabrik Frankfurt, DE

  • Nov 4
    Sudhaus Tubingen, DE

  • Nov 5
    Christuskirche Bochum, DE

  • Nov 7
    Rolling Stone Weekender Weissenhaeuser Strand

  • Nov 16
    Billboard Live Tokyo, JP

  • Nov 17
    Billboard Live Osaka, JP

  • Nov 20
    Mullumbimby Music Festival Mullumbimby, AU

  • Nov 21
    Newtown Social Club Sydney, AU

  • Nov 23
    The Basement Sydney, AU

  • Nov 25
    The Rosemount Hotel Perth, AU

  • Nov 27
    Caravan Music Club Melbourne, AU

  • Nov 28
    Northcote Social Club Melbourne, AU

  • Nov 29  
    Queenscliff Music Festival Queenscliff, AU

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