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Martin Sexton


Martin Sexton and Lucinda Williams with Chuck Prophet

July 19, 2002 @ FleetBoston Pavilion, Boston

The double bill-plus opened with the Cream-y guitar and Petty vocal style of young roots-er Chuck Prophet. Backed by an equally young trio, Prophet offered a short set of blues culminating in a rather gloomy version of his radio single “Summertime Thing.”
As the crowd continued to file in, Martin Sexton strode onstage with a wild blown-back mane and attitude to match. Pulling right into the low end jangle of “Angeline” (which got the crowd involved almost right away), Sexton and drummer Joe Bonadio kept the crowd going with a diverse set that included the funky “Beast in Me,” the bluesy “Can’t Stop Thinking ‘Bout You” and the bouncy “Diner.” With his multi-octave range. percussive guitar work and authentic vocal mimicry of horns and even electric guitars, Sexton was every bit the one man band, especially during a solo set that included the beautiful and redemptive “My Maria” and a version of his two-toned masterpiece “Glory Bound” that brought even Sexton to his knees. Bonadio made for a worthy partner, however, with his inventive and resourceful percussion that included everything from wood blocks to a watering can. Together, the dynamic duo got the crowd up and dancing and totally into the show.
Such could not be said as much for Ms. Williams, whose frequent intermezzo interviews with her sound crew lost whatever momentum her many up tempo numbers provided. Amidst a bevy of new songs, such as the cynical and sample-backed “American Dream,” the melodious “Ventura” and the rap-like street poems “Righteously” and “Sweet Sigh,” a happy but bedraggled Williams offered older favorites like a slightly mumbly “Car Wheels,” a raunchy and resentful “Joy” and the harmonious dirge “Essence.” Though “2 Cool 2 B Forgotten” couldn’t quite reach the high notes, the spiritual closer “Get Right with God” ended the official set on a high one indeed. Premeditated encores included a jangly solo take on “Passionate Kisses” and Howlin’ Wolf’s “Come to Me Baby.” Notably absent was “Can’t Let Go,” but with all the new material offered, not even three encores were enough to fit in every song.

- Matthew S. Robinson
c. 2002, M. S. Robinson, ARR



Martin Sexton

January 15, 2002 @ The Somerville Theater

Though the simple set was balanced by a lathed wooden pedestal, only Martin’s water and a well-worn towel would go there. Despite his time with one of the world’s most storied record labels (Atlantic), the man himself was a down to earth as ever and ready to launch the next phase of his own storied career – the creation of his own label – with an adopted hometown weekend stand.
As the lights dimmed, the roar of the faithful went up.
“This is a night of celebrity from a man who was put on earth to be a live entertainer,” said emcee Perry Persoff from local AAA station WXRV.
Truer words, Perry….
Opening with a dulcet rendition of “Freedom of the Road,” the husky but healthy Sexton bounced into “Faith,” propelled by the polyethelyned percussives of right hand man Joe Bonadillo. Sexton’s familiar hooks dared his audience not to sing along, but few were up to the challenge. “Where Did iI Go wrong” revealed a heavy use of echo, but few other effects were needed to make this an affecting performance. From the chipper jazz of “Love Keep Us Together” (in which Martin played the role of the Captain to hundreds of sighing Tenilles) to the first date blues of “Diggin Me” and an acoustically funky “Beast In Me,” Martin did his best for his fans, anecdoting and joking in between songs and making everyone feel a part. Borrowing passages from Led Zeppelin, Bo Diddley, Cab Calloway, James Taylor and Vince Guiraldi, Sexton demonstrated the songwriting smarts and performance savvy that has garnered him such a devout and dedicated following. And when he finished with a mic-less “The Way I Am” and a personally stirring “America the beautiful,” the reminiscence of his days in the subway brought the show and his career full-circle.

- Matthew S. Robinson
c. 2002, M. S. Robinson, ARR


Martin Sexton with Richard Julian

December 9, 1997 @ Johnny D's

Though the usually polite Johnny D's crowd did not give visiting artist Richard Julian nearly as much attention as they devoted to adopted favorite son Sexton, the congested Julian worked diligently through a sampling of his true-to-life lyrical tales. From the sparse and gentle "Young and Free" to the chugging "Bottom Of The Sea," Julian displayed quite a range in a relatively short set. Fresh from a tour with Suzanne Vega, Julian's twangy strum and unexpected lyrical twists deserve to be listened to, not just heard. However, the crowd was here mainly for one reason, and he would not come on until later. As soon as Sexton took the stage, the room fell silent, rapt with devotion to their multi-octaved minstrel. Bouncing, swaying and prowling the stage, Sexton ran through a comprehensive collection of his crowd-pleasing favorites -- from brave ballads such as "Freedom Of The Road" and "Glory Bound" to the 20's-meet-the-90's ditty "Diggin' Me Diggin' You" and a cover of "Ice Cream Man." Throughout, Sexton challenged himself and his listeners with sounds not often heard (or even thought possible) from a solo performer, ranging from a vocal 'bass' to a soaring falsetto, with a convincing bit of Billie Holiday in between. Closing his set with a multi-denominational clap-along rendition of "This Li'l Light Of Mine," Sexton returned triumphantly to the stage for multiple encores. Though it would never be enough for this crowd, the 'home-town' performance was grand and fulfilling from note one.

- Matthew S. Robinson
© 1998 M. S. Robinson, ARR


Martin Sexton

May 6, 1997 @ Johnny D’s

In my many pleasant visits to Johnny D’s, I have seen many great bands and many large crowds. Never have I seen a throng as grand as that which assembled to experience the lyricism of Martin Sexton!
When Sexton began his set, the line to get in trailed down the block and did not let up for some time. Though the bar section was a bit too noisy for some fans, the crowd in the main room swayed silently as one.
Mixing a childish, whispery whine with soulful calls, feline wails and even the occasional yodel with the subtle accents of melodic picking and percussive scratch and chop Sexton swept from up-tempo standards like “13-Step Boogie” to gorgeous ballads like “Glory Bound.” Though Sexton tuned and teased throughout the night with samples of Yes’ “Roundabout,” the Dead’s “Jack Straw” and even the theme from “Green Acres, “ it was his original work which truly captivated the crowd. From the insightful “Animals Rule,” which explains how women love pets more than men to the bluesy “Hard Times” -- complete with mouth-horn (a la adults on “Peanuts” specials) -- Sexton had his home-town fans fully on his side from start to finish. Despite the crowded conditions, everyone seemed comfortable and happy to be there.
Such is the wonder of great music!

Watch for Martin at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival and anywhere else he may choose to work his magic.

- Matthew S. Robinson
© 1997 M. S. Robinson, ARR


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