Martin Sexton "Mixtape of the Open Road"

Martin Sexton returns with an album that recreates the art of mixtapes.

For more than two decades Martin Sexton has been making great folk albums that occasionally strayed into light rock and blues. If there was justice in the music world his 1998 album The American should have made him a star. He’s a wicked guitar player, a clever lyricist with a remarkable ear for melody, and he possesses a voice that can growl out the blues, croon a love ballad, or yodel into the high registers.

Mixtape of the Open Road, his 8th release, is a loosely conceived concept album that hinges not on one musical theme or even lyrical content. The twelve songs on the album vary in tempo and genre, and leap from family oriented stories to the perils of life on the road. Sexton set out to create the feel of a mixtape, the kind you used to make to share your personal taste in music, and sometimes to woo the object of your desire - nothing impresses like the perfect set of songs.

The challenge for Sexton is that these are all his compositions, so in order to differentiate the songs he digs into blues, folk, and rock, changing up his playing and vocal approach on each. “Remember That Ride” replicates lo-fi garage rock with altered vocals and muddy production. “Pine Away” is all glossy pop-folk seduction. “Give It Up” moves into blues rock, while “Shut Up and Sing” fills like a take on jam-out Grateful Dead. “Dandelion Days” takes a page from early 1960s rock-and-roll. Sexton is best when he gets into ballads that feature is vocals including the yodel at the end of “Virginia.” The album raps with the jumping country blues of “Suppertime.”

It’s a fairly ambitious thing to re-create a mixtape from his own songs, but it’s a good excuse for Sexton to stretch his musical horizons.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)