So, here I am at the Toronto airport delayed.. shocking! I may be pining away in a airport bar in Chicago for the night. I’m sure I’ll be the “Ugly American” before it’s all said and done. Besides the usual airport shenanigans, I had a great time in the Great White North! This tale has a interesting start and a happy ending.
I started listening to Ron Sexsmith back in 1995. He is a true master of melody. His songs are earwigs, leaving you humming them for the rest of the day. Ya’ know.. good music! I have all of his CD’s and always look forward to the next. Ron is actually heading to “Hell-A” next month to work on his newest record with Mitchell Froom. In the past, he’s worked with such heavyweights as Steve Earle and Bob Rock. I regularly play his music at the shop. 1., because they always sound good and 2., to turn more people on to his music.
This past SXSW I lucked out and was given a pass to see his documentary, Love Shines and have a few drinks with him afterwards. Here I am face to face with one of my favorite musicians. What do you say? I asked him about his songwriting process (songs just flow into him) and his favorite artists (he’s a big fan of 50’s Doo Wop!) In the documentary it shows Mr. Sexsmith working with Bob Rock (also a Canadian) and a band of handpicked studio musicians.
Unfortunately, the film depicts Ron in the role of a “starving musician”, which is not at all accurate. No, he’s not as well known or rich as his contemporaries like Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello or Paul McCartney, but he is very well respected as a songwriter’s songwriter.
The next day I’m at The Dog & Duck pub watching a set by The Meat Puppets when someone taps my shoulder. “Are you Brian from Whetstone?” asks a nice British fellow. “I am”. “Hey, I’m Paul Darwin from Rega.” “Cool, let’s get a beer!” After a few pints I tell Paul of my meeting with Ron and his eyes light up. “I love that guy!” he says. “Y’know… it would be so cool if Rega hooked him up with a rig.” It took Paul a millisecond to say “Done! But you have to go install it.”
Eight months later I’m on a plane to visit Ron and his lovely wife, Colleen Hixenbaugh. They are both scheduled to perform at Foodstock, a foodie fest doubling as a demonstration for a proposed Mega Quarry. Seems that Canada has a greedy 1% too! They want to dig up limestone and destroy lots of farmland. Ron and Colleen pick me up and we’re off to the countryside! We finally get to the fest after getting lost along with Barenaked Lady, Jim Creeggan. Backstage, I got to meet Hayden, Jim Cuddy (from Blue Rodeo), The Barenaked Ladies, Cuff the Duke and Sarah Harmer. The Rock / Folk elite of Canada! It was a great day in between torrential downpours and mud. 28,000 people showed up to eat, hear music and demonstrate the quarry! The only downside was the complete lack of beer. I thought Canadians loved beer! Take off, eh!
The next morning I met Ron and Colleen for breakfast and then headed over to the Sexsmith digs to set up the Rega system. Ron got a RP1 turntable with upgrade package, Apollo CD player, Rega Couple interconnect, Brio-R integrated and RS-1 speakers with some Chord Silverscreen cables. After I set it up we put on Ron’s newest, “Long Player, Late Bloomer”. Ron breaks into a grin and says, “wow, that sounds really great!” Colleen hooks me up with some T-shirts, LP’s and CD’s I didn’t have and we say our goodbyes. They had a big theater gig the next night to get ready for!
I spent the next couple days wandering around Toronto. Queens St. West (cool shops), Kensington Market (weed and spice shops), a few record stores and a Hi-Fi shop called Planet of Sound. I caught the opening day of a Marc Chagall exhibit and ate some tasty Italian food at Terroni’s. I even saw some music at the legendary Horseshoe Lounge. All in all, a great experience!