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Black Sheep

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Album Review

Martin Sexton's acoustic singer/songwriter routine is just one of many flavors here; along with Motown-style R&B, sweeping pop ballads, gypsy fiddling, blues, and jazz, there's even a little rapping. The genre jumping works surprisingly well. Producer Crit Harmon sequences the switches with sensitivity and class, and gives the set a consistent sound — warm, spontaneous, grounded in acoustics, deeply soulful. Vocally, Sexton handles the stylistic gymnastics with extravagant ease. He'll belt out a tune with all the velvet bombast of Wonder, retreat to a Billie Holiday warble, ascend to an Aaron Neville falsetto, then swagger his way home like Ray Charles or Johnny Popper. There is, however, a cost for his expanded palette: originality. Such soulful singing is rarely set against a sparse folk background (which is often associated with off-key eccentrics like Bob Dylan and Neil Young). As his band imitates the soul masters who influenced his vocals, his act seems less fresh, and stands against somewhat stiffer vocal competition. Sexton has told interviewers that folk music tends to speak only to his head ("like a thick novel"), while simpler pop music hits him in the gut. His songwriting seems to reflect that he edges away from the urban poetry of his Bostonian peers but toward plain old pop, and it's not bad — his lyrics previously seemed a little overreaching — but it does make some of the songs on Black Sheep a little less interesting than the ones on his 1991 demo tape, In the Journey. All of the diversity, though, does make the solo acoustic moments all the more gratifying, spotlighting not only Sexton's sensational singing but also his warm, bass-heavy, rhythmically slick acoustic guitar playing.

Customer Reviews

Black Sheep

Unbelievable voice!! Fantastic live also!

Stunning!

I first saw Sexton at the massive Winnipeg Folk Festival. I was blown away. Amazing talent. I bought this CD there, and Mr. Sexton actually autographed it for me. What struck me was that when he performed, dozens of folk festival artists would watch from the side of the stage. An artist's artist. All of the songs on this CD showcase his great voice and musical/songwriting talent. The song "Black Sheep" still blows me away. One of the small number of CDs I'd like to have if I was on a deserted island.

Biography

Born: March 02, 1966 in Syracuse, NY

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Martin Sexton was one of the most talked-about arrivals on the "new folk" acoustic music scene. The guitarist, singer, and songwriter has an amazing vocal range and makes effective use of it on his recordings and in his live shows. Unlike so many other contemporary singer/songwriters, his vocal style can be described as truly soulful,...
Full bio