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.