On Destination Unknown, Ron Sexsmith brings longtime collaborator Don Kerr to the fore. With him come some gorgeous two-part harmonies and the relaxed atmosphere of a casual collaboration that turned out more accomplished than either probably intended. In the liner notes, Sexsmith calls the collection "misfit songs sung by a couple of misfits," but the end result is as compelling as Sexsmith's solo albums.
For a singer with such a warm and sensitive voice, Sexsmith sure knows how to sneak in a lot of sly business. Destination Unknown's "Lemonade Stand" contains one example, in lyrics proclaiming that a lemonade stand "stands for all that's good in this makeshift world of man." Sexsmith backs the claim with images of "serious boys squinting into the sun." Are they getting a leg up, or just wasting their youth? Sexsmith isn't telling.
But his songs aren't all mixed messages. He once recorded a track called "God Loves Everyone" that could convert the hardest soul, and when he turns to the subject of love, he's got the conviction of a true romantic. "Beautiful girls pass me by," Sexsmith and Kerry sing on "Only Me," before dropping the punchline: "But they're not you." They also sound baffled by heartbreak on "One Less Shadow," a song that wonders whether it's fate or some other outside force that drives happy lovers apart. Maybe, like the pleasant neighborhoods of the album-closing "Tree-Lined Street," some kinds of love can only be appreciated at their end.
That's a sad sentiment on an album with its share of them, but Sexsmith's songs have a way of rescuing melancholy thoughts from misery and finding the wisdom inside the heartbreak. In Kerr, he's found a partner who helps evoke the sweet from the bitter. Their collaboration has the whiff of a side project—one that both would do well to revive whenever the spirit strikes.