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Review: Martin Sexton, Sugarcoating


Martin Sexton
Sugarcoating
[Kitchen Table (2010)]

Though he’s continued to grow as a songwriter, the pure beauty of Martin Sexton’s octave-spanning singing too often obscures his words. While he addresses the humanity lost to technology (“Found”), the media’s failure to report the truth (title track), the world awaiting his young son (“Slane”), and the sorrow of a broken heart (“Wants Out”), on his 10th CD, Sugarcoating, it’s still the Syracuse-born tunesmith’s singing that leaves the greatest impression. The high points of the CD, in fact, come when words are replaced by a trumpet-imitating vocal solo during ragtime finger-snapper, “Easy On The Eyes” and an improvised, falsetto-tinged scat during jazz-groove dance tune, “Boom Sh-Boom.” Tom West (Wurlitzer, piano, organ, clavinet), Marty Ballou (bass), Eugene Friesen (cello), Dave Mattacks (drums), and Duke Levine (lap steel, electric guitar, octave mandolin), provide a light jazz-folk accompaniment, while Georganne Calyanis (“Just To Be Alive”) and Sexton’s sister, Colleen (“The Long Haul”) sing harmony. Sexton uses a diverse range of settings to display his wares. “Livin’ The Life” is a Stevie Wonder-like soul tune, while the title track, despite its heavy subject, recalls the yippie-kai-ay western sounds of Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers. The Beatles’ influence is celebrated during “Stick Around,” and “I Am The Walrus”-like strings at the end of the upbeat, closing track, “Just To Be Alive.”

—Craig Harris (Chicopee, MA)

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