This past Thursday we drove out to Crested Butte after work, and rolled in right before 9pm to find out that folk extraordinaire Martin Sexton was performing across the street from our hotel (at 9pm)! The CB Center for Performing Arts is a small venue that fits about 200 seated patrons, with standing room for about 40 more. We made it over there a couple songs in and had to stand at the back, but the size of the venue gave the entire show a very intimate feel.
Sexton was alone on stage for the majority of the performance, the exception being the three tall, bearded backing vocalists who came out occasionally for doo-wop arrangements or poignant background accompaniment for the slower ballads. The equipment was limited as well, with three separate microphones dispersed across the stage in old-timey fashion, one resembling an old 50’s radio area mic. The only other prop on stage was a side-table with some water and a couple of candles. The sparse décor was fitting when Sexton crooned alone with his guitar, but he also performed some more upbeat numbers including the Billy Preston classic ‘Will It Go Round in Circles’, complete with percussion accompaniment from Sexton’s slapping his thumb on the base of his guitar, and a medley of similarly structured pop songs that included U2’s ‘With or Without You’.
Martin Sexton’s most popular album, The American, was released back in 1998 but has aged better than the rest of his original catalog, and he knows it. He performed about 8 of the 12 tracks from his most well-known album, including a beautiful rendition of ‘The Way I Am’ complete with yodeling chorus and instrument-as-vocal effects. Sexton continuously stopped to tell the small crowd stories about past times he played in CB, how he wrote certain riffs (the guitar riff in ‘Maria’ is based off of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Tangerine’), and how he wrote a particular song for his young son, who actually made a cameo appearance for the sing-along chorus at the end.
It was a wildly engaging and entertaining performance of folk and Americana from the talented Sexton, who at times made his guitar-slapping and beat-boxing sound like a full drum kit. The cherry on top of was a rendition of gospel classic “This Little Light of Mine” as encore, complete with backing vocalists. If you ever get a chance to see Martin Sexton perform live, I recommend it!