CANADIAN troubadour Ron Sexsmith always has a trigger for a new album.

His last work, 2013's Forever Endeavour, was derived from a health scare, while its predecessor, 2011's Long Player Late Bloomer, was born of disillusionment.

This year's Carousel One, however, places Sexsmith in surprising territory for a storytelling songwriter more often defined as a downbeat balladeer. Ron sounds contented at 51, as you can hear in Saturday's sold-out show at Pocklington Arts Centre.

"Oh I hope so. Long Player was quite a grumpy record,” he says. “It was uptempo musically but lyrically, not so much. I didn’t realise until we were putting the songs together for Carousel One that this would be more outgoing; there's a lot more humour. I mean, there’s even a smiling picture on the cover, which I’ve never had before. I just hope it doesn’t scare the children.”

The self-deprecating Sexsmith has won the admiration of songwriting luminaries such as Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Steve Earle and Elvis Costello, who he supported in perhaps the quietest ever turn at York Barbican when almost apologetically promoting his self-titled 1995 debut. Big record sales, however, have eluded this deceptively young-looking son of the blue-collar town of St. Catharines, Ontario, throughout a career that now stretches to 13 albums.

“Well, I guess I was chasing stardom at one point, but then I stopped," he says. "To be honest, I think the lack of commercial success has been more annoying to the folks around me. I sometimes get people saying ‘Why aren't you playing stadiums?’. Well, it's certainly no mystery to me why I’m not. It’s just not that kind of music. I really didn’t expect the Long Player album to do as well as it did either.

"Not that it sold like Lady Gaga but it did do pretty well for me. It even led to us headlining the Royal Albert Hall in 2013. My career was given a much needed kick in the pants, which I didn't see coming. I thought those days were gone for me, but it definitely reawakened a dormant fan base, especially in the UK. Since then, I feel like I've got my career back.”

By Sexsmith's standards, Long Player Late Bloomer had a glossy production, courtesy of fabled producer Bob Rock, whereas 2013's Forever Endeavour was more acoustic. Carousel One, released in March on Cooking Vinyl, takes the middle ground on a warming, witty set of songs marked by Sexsmith’s melodic purity, big heart, sporadic sentimentality and a playfulness that should not be overlooked.

Musical inspiration came from the Seventies' albums of Phoebe Snow and Gerry Rafferty, yet Carousel has a fresh, modern sound. “That may be because of how quickly we made it,” Ron says. “I only had the musicians for five days, so we recorded 16 tracks in that time. We were recording within ten minutes of me walking in the door. I’ve never been a fan of being in the studio, but I do love it when the music is actually happening, and those were action-packed days.”

Producer Jim Scott, introduced to Sexsmith by mutual friend Kevin Hearn from Barenaked Ladies, drew together the seasoned skills of bass player Bob Glaub (past clients, John Lennon, Jackson Browne, Dolly Parton and Graham Nash); guitarist Jon Graboff (John Lee Hooker, Dr John); drummer Don Heffington (Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris), and keyboard player John Ginty (Dixie Chicks, Matthew Sweet).

They worked in a relaxed atmosphere that lent itself well to the rock numbers Getaway Car and Can’t Get My Act Together. "I've been sort of pigeon-holed as a balladeer, which I never really understood,” says Ron. "Maybe I'm not as convincing when I try to ‘rock out’ sometimes. At home I listen to mostly Fifties' radio; I really love the way those songs kinda swing and so that's what I was trying to do on Getaway Car.”

Carousel One is marked by a diversity that Sexsmith calls a "happy accident”. The song No One emerged from the idea of attempting to write in the vein of Roger Miller; opening track and June single Sure As The Sky began as a folk campfire song but acquired rock wings.

“I was writing that one and thinking of how Judy Collins did the song Turn! Turn! Turn! before The Byrds had recorded it and how they went and turned it into something more anthemic," says Ron.

Saint Bernard pays tribute to an anonymous family dog from a photograph picked up in a second-hand shop by Ron’s wife, Colleen. In typical Sexsmith humour, he turns the song from wistful nostalgia by giving the rescue dog's reviving liquor supply the status of a "minibar".

“They’ve always been my favourite type of dog," says Ron. "I was sitting in the kitchen one day playing guitar, I had this melody but no lyrics, so I looked up at the picture and just started singing the opening lines. I guess the album is kind of a travelogue of music that I like which was mostly a happy accident.”

If you are still scratching your head and thinking "who's Ron Sexsmith?", he has sold out Pocklington Arts Centre because Michael Bublé,Tracey Thorn, Linda Thompson, Rod Stewart, kd lang, Nick Lowe, Feist, Emmylou Harris, Raul Malo, Engelbert Humperdinck and Lucinda Williams, no less, have all used a sprinkling of his songwriting gold dust.

Oh, and Andrew Marr is a fan. Sexsmith appeared on BBC1's Andrew Marr Show in April, performing Getaway Car with his friend Steve Nieve, from The Attractions, in front of fellow guest Prime Minister David Cameron.

As legendary record producer Daniel Lanois said in the Sexsmith documentary Love Shines: ”Not a lot of people have Ron’s gift: the ability to see a tiny snapshot of a feeling, then expand upon it and deliver a beautiful song. The songs are like Polaroids.”

Ron Sexsmith plays Pocklington Arts Centre on Saturday, 8pm; sold out. UPDATE: 15/10/2015: Support act will by Trevor Moss and Hannah-Lou.

Did you know?

Ron Sexsmith's album Carousel One is named for the luggage retrieval belt at Los Angeles airport where bags from Toronto flights are delivered.