Martin Sexton

The American

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Martin Sexton's aptly titled major-label debut finds the ostentatiously talented singer on a spirited, cross-country tour of nearly every genre the nation has ever produced. Folk, roots rock, grunge, country, soul, R&B, blues, and jazz -- Sexton pulls it all off with a voice that exhibits all the rangy flexibility of a ballet dancer. The American is a little more consistent than its indie label predecessor, Black Sheep, although it comes dangerously close to ruining the best song from the first record by re-imagining "Glory Bound" as a fiery rock anthem. In contrast, "Candy" is actually improved by the acid grunge treatment it gets here, acquiring a gritty bite that it lacked on Black Sheep. He also revisits two songs from the demo recording In the Journey ("Way I Am," "Love Keep Us Together"). But there's plenty of sharp new material here as well, such as the jazzy "Diggin' Me" and the country & western-flavored title track. Throughout all the genre hopping, Sexton's indefatigable vocal cords provide a constant. "My Maria" once again demonstrates the singer's preternatural ability to create astonishing simulations of musical instruments -- wailing electric guitar solo winds seemlessly into a wailing Sexton falsetto, leaving the listener to puzzle over what was live and what was Memorex. These are the kind of infectiously exuberant moments that populate Sexton's recordings, capturing an American virtuoso in love with American music.

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