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Martin Sexton 

Friday, April 25, at the Grog Shop.

Martin Sexton
  • Martin Sexton
Martin Sexton is rare, not so much for his musicianship -- good musicians are a dime a dozen -- but because he's an old-fashioned performer: Sexton sells the audience not only on his music, but the passion and energy behind it. Perhaps it can be attributed to his naturally impetuous and rebellious nature, which landed him in frequent trouble as a youth, leaving him irrepressible and undeterred. Maybe it's the period in Boston, when busking the subways and street corners was his only source of income, making him hungry and bold. Whatever the source, Sexton's live shows are a charismatic tour de force reminiscent of the Boss's never-ending tent revivals, with Sexton prowling the stage like a man obsessed, enraptured by the primacy of the guitar-music-audience connection and his own showmanship.

Then there's his voice. If anything establishes Sexton's pedigree as an American troubadour, it's that silky baritone, moving as acrobatically as Jackie Chan, leaping from bluesy growl to fluttering falsetto, burbling blue-eyed soul to jazzy vocal scat. While he's cut from the mold of such soulful crooners as Van Morrison and Otis Redding, Sexton moves freely among soul, R&B, gospel, roots, rock, blues, and jazz. Prone to occasional overwriting and soft-headed sentimentalism, Sexton makes up for his lyrical deficiencies with buoyant energy and nimble vocals.

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