Canadian Ron Sexsmith's biggest fans may be his fellow songwriters: Chris Martin invited him to open several Coldplay tours, and a photograph of Elvis Costello holding Sexsmith's debut album graced the cover of Mojo magazine in 1995. It's easy to see how he has earned their respect on "Time Being," with such songs as "And Now the Day Is Done," which lightens the sorrow of losing a friend ("The sun has gone / It arose but never shone") with a little slang ("It was such a pleasant dream / 'Til someone pulled the plug"). His sorrowful voice makes the lyric more respectful than flippant, but his casual tone keeps the song from wallowing in despair.
Elsewhere, Sexsmith keeps the mood light: He gives himself a cheerful pep talk in "All in Good Time," "Ship of Fools" eases the human plight with a bouncy melody and a jocular feel, and "Jazz at the Bookstore" coyly mourns the culture that has turned classic jazz and blues into background book-browsing music.
Kim Taylor's soothing voice would work equally well in the spotlight or in the background. She toured in 2005 as a backup singer for Ohio folk/rock band Over the Rhine. On her album "I Feel Like a Fading Light," her voice recalls Mary Lou Lord's warmth as it flows smoothly over the lulling confession of "Baby I Need You" and the tender seduction of "My Dress Is Hung." But she's not always so sweet: She may sound detached on "Ninety-Five Things," but a feisty assertiveness boils just below the surface.
-- Catherine P. Lewis