Audio Mixers: Danny Bernini; Martin Sexton.
Recording information: SpiritHouse Studios, Northampton, MA.
Photographer: Jo Chattman.
Discussing his 2015 album Mixtape of the Open Road, Martin Sexton told a reporter, "The concept of this record is that it's a mixtape, just like when your friends knew you were taking that California trip and wanted to inspire you along the way." While that might suggest the album was meant to be stylistically and thematically diverse, with each track having a distinct identity, the truth is that Mixtape sounds pretty much like a Martin Sexton album. That's not a bad thing by any yardstick, but even though the percussion samples and electronic overlays of "Remember That Ride" and the uptempo vintage rock sound of "Dandelion Days" push Sexton just a bit outside his traditional comfort zone, for the most part Mixtape finds Sexton doing what he traditionally does well, writing homespun but heartfelt tunes and singing them with a big dose of upstate New York soul while he and his friends give the songs an artful but unobtrusive backing. If there is a common theme that unites these songs, it's the call of the highway, which certainly fits the title and suits a man who spends a whole lot of time on the road; even when he's reveling in the culinary and carnal delights of domestic life on "Supper Time," he's doing so after a long stretch away from home, and in "Shut Up and Sing," he channels the sound and inspiration of those masters of the long, strange trip, the Grateful Dead. If that makes Mixtape of the Open Road a road dog's concept album about life in the van, you can't say Sexton doesn't know the themes by heart, and these songs play out with an easygoing authority and a mood that suits the rhythms of the turnpike. In many ways, this is a very typical Martin Sexton effort, but also one that rings true with a personal touch, and it's a reminder of why he's one of the most reliably satisfying figures on the contemporary folk scene. ~ Mark Deming