Here’s a clip of songwriting savant Ron Sexsmith and former Rheostatic and first string sessioner and touring musician Don Kerr. It’s the rootsy and close harmony-inclined ‘Listen’ as taken from the duo’s 2005 collaborative album Destination Unknown, a record geared toward their penchant for the music of the brothers Everly and Stanley.
By the end of Sexsmith’s writing, and touring, his Retriever album, he had a number of songs leftover that suggested a different tone than those on that record. One of the musicians accompanying Sexsmith on that tour was Don Kerr, former drummer of The Rheostatics, and a cellist and second guitarist to boot while in Sexsmith’s band.
Among his other talents as a multi-instrumentalist, Kerr’s tenor voice was a welcome blend when it came to harmony vocals. And thus was this project born; a collection of accoustically arranged folk-pop songs with country and baroque overtones – Destination Unknown. Besides the deliberate folksy approach with countrified close harmonies, and back porch feel, the tone of the songs are still in line with Sexsmith’s general outlook and approach when it comes to songwriting.
With this tune, ‘Listen’, actually the record’s opener, the song is about choosing a positive path, while acknowledging the sometimes-unfriendly nature of existence. The key line here is ‘to condemn life or rejoice; I think I’ll choose rejoicing’, a firm answer to the Shakespearean ‘to be or not to be’ angst faced by all of us, and dealt with with varying degrees of success by modern songwriters.
And once again, we see Sexsmith’s genius; an ability to write a positive song without simplifying or trivializing the reasons why suffering is such a burden to human experience. Well, that and an ability to effortlessly write songs that stick in your head. This is a prime example of Blake’s idea of innocence and experience, not as two duelling poles, but as two points of view that co-exist as we wander our path through life. Sometimes, we are informed more by one than we are by the other. But, in the best of times, we can acknowledge both, when we listen.
For more about Ron Sexsmith, check out the official Ron Sexsmith site.
And if your looking for solo material by Don Kerr, you can hear his latest efforts on the Don Kerr MySpace page.