Martin Sexton

Along with 10 zillion Tracy Chapman clones, Martin Sexton cut his teeth around the subway stations and street corners of Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the late '80s and early '90s.

So yeah, the singer-songwriter and guitar whiz has been on the periphery of the new folk scene for years and years. But Sexton has distinguished himself in that overcrowded scene, with quality originals, bouncy covers, impressive fretwork, and soulful singing -- a cross between Cat Stevens and Stevie Wonder.

He has recorded six studio albums since 1990, each one exhibiting a growing interest in sonic experimentation. This trend has culminated in Seeds, which Sexton released earlier this year on his Kitchen Table imprint. The album is anything but one-note contemporary folk. Sexton assumes a different vocal character in every song while continually messing around with rock, gospel, soul, Tin Pan Alley, and country music. Sure, there's a couple of Jack Johnson moments of awful beach jammery, but "I'm Here" and "Right Where You Belong" go a long way toward absolving these sins.

As with all of Sexton's albums, the band that backs him will most likely not be present for his current tour. The fun part then becomes figuring out how he will deliver the more complicated arrangements in an acoustic setting. But you know he will, and it'll always be good. The guy knows what he's doing.