POP& JAZZ With Angela Lewis

The Eye on Pop & Jazz

Ron Sexsmith plays the Shepherd's Bush Empire, London (0181-740 7474) 7 Nov

In 1995, Ron Sexsmith was depressed. The Toronto singer songwriter released his eponymous album: a crafted, mellow folk-rock beauty, with the odd potential classic song. But, like his previous records, it looked set to sink into obscurity. Then fate took pity on him. The record label suddenly began promoting it, the good reviews filtered through, Elvis Costello raved about Ron, and by spring 1996, Ron was a star on Jools Holland's Later show. So was he happy?

"My face took up the whole screen, I looked so fat!" he recalls with horror. "But the Jools Holland thing is a big show over there. Here in Canada I can't even get on a little show. This is my worst market," he despairs.

Sexsmith has already clocked up three British visits this year, so it's safe to assume that, thanks to supporting the likes of Richard Thompson, his album is making inroads here. And no wonder. The affable, sensitive chap pulls off moments of heart- quaking magic with songs "Secret Heart" and "There's A Rhythm".

He has definite MOR leanings at times, but his voice is floodlit with a sweet charm and an undefinable dreaminess. He promises that his next album will be more upbeat - little vignette songs given precise orchestrration - so the worry is that the gentle intimacy he's good at will get a little lost.

Before he can plunge into his next record, there's a matter of finishing up touring duties for 1996. He chuckles over past trips to Japan, where screaming devotees chase him in the street, and a summer tour of the States with Elvis Costello. But his moods go up and down on the road, and a whole host of anxieties buzz around.

"The last thing I want to do is wear out my welcome," he frets. "I don't know what to expect, but I hope some people turn up."

EYE ON THE NEW

And by complete contrast, Alabama 3 cook up bad boy acid grooves, which will soon induce a deluge of Black Grape comparisons. The south London funky noise renegades are already pulling in a formidable live following. After people hear their single "Ain't Goin' To Goa", and the tour kicks off properly next week, they won't be able to keep the lid on.

The Brix, London SW2 (0171-274 6470) 8 Nov

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