Martin Sexton, "Sugarcoating"

76 Billboard Rating

Martin Sexton hasn't met a musical style he doesn't like--at least that's the sense you get from the Massachusetts singer/ songwriter's ninth album, "Sugarcoating." As with most of its predecessors, Sexton shoots wide on the set and mostly hits, presenting a 13-track musical travelogue rooted in rootsy Americana. But he takes left turns into ragtime ("Easy on the Eyes"), soul ("Always Got Away"), bouncy, Mersey-flavored pop ("Stick Around") and the epic arrangement of the album-closing "Just to Be Alive." The songs "Boom Sh-Boom" and "Livin' the Life" boast a breezy, Jason Mraz-style playfulness, and the title track takes a hard look at everything that's come in the wake of 9/11, pleading for someone to "tell it like it is." On the track "Shane," Sexton sings to his baby son over tricky, ringing guitar figures, while the twangy "Long Haul" promises a lasting kind of love that disappears in "Wants Out" and then cautiously pokes its head up in "Friends Again." --Gary Graff

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