Ron Sexsmith has always been the kid
at the adult-alternative cocktail party. He put together his first band at 14 and soon found Elvis Costello clutching his solo debut on the cover of Mojo
. Occasionally, talented pups such as Norah Jones inspire a collective "awww," but Sexsmith is ultimately -- if only critically -- still revered as the Doogie Howser of capital-S Songwriters. So it follows that he emerges from a two-record slump contemplating sand through the hourglass with perspective beyond his 42 years. Here, "time" -- in the words of poet William Matthews -- "seems, often enough, the nickname for the phrase 'time left.'"
A reunion with producer Mitchell Froom gives Time Being the elegance and warmth of his early records. He can be wry; on "Jazz at the Bookstore," he quips, "Faint elegance is heard/Now was that Ellington or Bird?" -- or weary, but he's never bitter. When the tale of "The Grim Trucker" asks, "Will we wake to wings in heaven?/Or to hooves and snout in our next life?" Sexsmith answers by whistling a carefree melody, perhaps while strolling past a graveyard.