Martin Sexton – Fall Like Rain (2012): Something Else! sneak peek

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Not so much so-called “new folk” as an interesting distillation of country, blues, gospel and soul, Martin Sexton since his out-of-nowhere self-produced 1991 cassette debut has become the very definition of modern-day troubadour.

Some of that is simply due to the remarkable emotional power of his voice. Sexton sings with a stirring flexibility, from chirpy optimism all the way over to soaring anguish. It’s like a next-gen combination of Van Morrison and Al Green. Yet his approach, the songcraft itself, is deceptively simple, disarmingly direct — something underscored by the advance single from Sexton’s 2012 release Fall Like Rain.

“Can’t know the heat until you’ve been frozen cold,” he sings, sounding at once so obvious, but making a lasting point about the required experience it takes to be fully content. “How can you know love until you have a broken heart?”

What makes Sexton’s work so intriguing, though, is its topical sweep. Elsewhere on his forthcoming EP, due Jan. 24, Sexton balances delicate insight into relationships with broader commentary on the world today. There’s soul-soaked encouragement for those who would take up a protest (“One Voice Together,” with its memorable line: “in a world of warfare, peace is bad for business”); and then a hushed whisper of adult love (“Happy Anniversary”). Sexton rouses himself for a touching bit of small-town storytelling (“Burlington”), only to conclude with a greasy breakdown on a Buffalo Springfield Vietnam-era classic (“For What It’s Worth”).

In good times, and bad, we need people who can do that: frame up our hopes, our dreams, our worries — and, if we’re lucky, make it all work while strumming a guitar. They are, however, becoming increasingly difficult to find, as the industry seems more concerned these days with creating career-based distractions rather than framing issues.

The fiercely independent Sexton, a road poet with a soul shouter’s verve, stands proudly just outside that circle of light — still as welcome as he is bracing.

A native of Syracuse, N.Y., the self-taught Martin Sexton formed an initial fanbase while busking on the streets of Boston. The bulk of his hot-selling self-released 1991 cassette In the Journey was then fashioned into a breakthrough project in 1996 called Black Sheep. A deal with Atlantic Records also produced 1998’s The American and 2000’s The Wonder Bar, before Sexton returned to the indie world with his start-up label KTR Records. The Christmas-themed Camp Holiday was released in 2005, followed by Seeds and Solo in 2007-08 and then Sugarcoating in 2010.

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Sexton’s returning to the road on Friday. For more details, go to his Web site:

Dec. 30: OGUNQUIT, ME – Jonathan’s
Dec. 31: BURLINGTON, VT – Higher Ground
Jan. 19: ANN ARBOR, MI – The Ark; Bhi Bhiman opens
Jan. 20: CHICAGO, IL – Park West; Bhi Bhiman opens
Jan. 21: STOUGHTON, WI – Stoughton Opera House; Bhi Bhiman opens
Jan. 22: ST. PAUL, MN – Fitzgerald Theater; Adam Gontier, Bhi Bhiman open
Jan. 25: IDAHO FALLS, ID – Colonial Theater; Adam Gontier opens
Jan. 26: MISSOULA, MT – The Wilma Theatre; Adam Gontier opens
Jan. 27: PORTLAND, OR – Aladdin Theater; Adam Gontier opens
Jan. 28: SEATTLE, WA – The Neptune Theatre; Adam Gontier opens
Jan. 29: SPOKANE, WA – Bing Crosby Theater; Adam Gontier opens
Jan. 31: CRYSTAL BAY, NV – The Crystal Bay Club; Adam Gontier opens
Feb. 1: GRASS VALLEY, CA – Center for the Arts; Adam Gontier opens
Feb. 2: SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The Fillmore; Adam Gontier opens
Feb. 3: LOS ANGELES, CA – El Rey Theatre; Adam Gontier opens
Feb. 4: SOLANA BEACH, CA – Belly Up Tavern; Adam Gontier opens
Feb. 7: PHOENIX, AZ – Compound Grill; Adam Gontier opens
Feb. 9: DALLAS, TX – Kessler Theater
Feb. 10: HOUSTON, TX – House of Blues
Feb. 11: AUSTIN, TX – Austin City Limits Live at Moody Theater

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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