For Cobblestone Runway, Sexsmith enlisted Swedish producer Martin Terefe to dress up his charming acoustic tunes with drum machines and chamber-pop finery, and therein lies the album's main flaw. Perhaps Sexsmith's past records, produced by Tchad Blake and, more recently, Steve Earle, failed to fully capture his vision. Perhaps Sweden really is the new center of the musical universe. Either way, the result is a mostly awkward and cluttered record on which good songs are polished to a blinding sheen. The album's sorest thumb is "Dragonfly on Bay Street," a bouncy number that sounds as if Ron pressed the "French disco funk" button on his Casiotone. It's also rock-solid evidence that vocoders should be outlawed until Beck finds a new girlfriend and goes back to making dirty funk records. Overall, the real shame is that behind the electro-grooves and faux-funk, Cobblestone contains some of Sexsmith's most accomplished lyrics and sweetest vocals. This isn't a wholly unlistenable or unlikable record by any stretch -- Sexsmith's talent is evident no matter what outfit he wears. Let's just hope he shops around a little more before settling on his next sound.
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