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Album: Ron Sexsmith, Exit Strategy of the Soul (Kensaltown)

Ron Sexsmith is usually damned with faint praise as a songwriter's songwriter, loved by students of the form but largely ignored.

This ninth album probably won't change anything for the 44-year-old Ontarian, whose still boyish but plump face never seems to fit. But it is as good as anything he's done. He has coined the term "shadow gospel" for its sound. There are equally strong touches of country in its honky-tonk piano and fatalistic lyrical craft. There are indications of darkening times, as in the nod to "the children of the war" in "Thoughts and Prayers", and the "trail of a storm" Sexsmith finds himself following in "Ghost of a Chance". But the gentle reassurance of "This Is How I Know" is more typical, with its simple-seeming clockwork lyrical intricacies, and hopeful journey "from the ashes of a broken home", set free by "the music on the radio". "Of all the virtues known to man/ Patience is the one I understand," Sexsmith sings in his sweet, fragile voice. It would be nice to think his will pay off this time.

Pick of the album:'This Is How I Know', 'Poor Helpless Dreams', 'Brandy Alexander'