Martin Sexton’s Incomparable Thing

From the moment a friend in Washington DC introduced me to Martin Sexton this summer (when I was over there doing a fellowship at the Library of Congress) I have been hooked on the singer-songwriter’s voice and music.

Last night, I made the four-hour roundtrip from Silicon Valley to Sacramento and back to experience the artist live at the Jean Runyon Little Theatre, and it was totally worth the schlep.

One of the things that impressed me most about Sexton’s gig was the variety of sounds he got out both of his voice and his guitar.

All too often, I go to concerts where the artist is surrounded by a battalion of instruments. Sexton, contrastingly, produced roughly just about as many different timbres as another artist might switching between various stringed instruments, looping pedals and synthesizers, by using only one guitar and his body.

I didn’t realize from the recordings I’ve heard just how accomplished a beatboxer and body percussionist Sexton is.

And his one guitar sounded at different points of the program like many different guitars such as acoustic, bass, and steel-stringed. He even managed to channel Hendrix at one point, with some dirty reverb effects generated by putting his instrument close to a speaker.

Sexton is extremely playful on stage. Every song sounds like he’s making it up on the spot, feeling the room for the right sensation and mood to build around him.

I wish I could go to Petaluma’s Mystic Theatre tonight to hear the artist do his only other Bay Area gig. Why oh why doesn’t he have a date in Oakland, Berkeley or San Francisco???

Alas, I am otherwise occupied.

(If you’re anywhere near Marin county tonight, come check out the Mill Valley Philharmonic‘s Sibelius-cetric program in which yours truly will be essaying the second oboe line!)

However, a much better use of your time might be to head to Petaluma to watch Sexton do his incomparable thing.

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