Billboard's Timothy White once praised Martin Sexton as a "vocalist of amazing proficiency and sensual conviction."
The appropriately named singer/songwriter, who has looked, at times, like a gym-card-carrying Jim Morrison, does seem to have siphoned his oeuvre straight from a time machine channeling 1970s radio. Unabashedly emotional -- even, at times, operatic -- Sexton unlooses his baritone in the form of husky croons, sonorous bellows and dog-whistle-worthy falsettos.
The singer's voice spans an impressive eight octaves.
Indeed -- while he shares his Boston home base with such coolly iconic artists as Aimee Mann (the caustic poetry of namesake suicide Anne Sexton also bears mentioning here), Martin, who grew up in Syracuse, sounds oceans away from New England. His delivery is shameless, sweaty, muscular and cathartic: Listeners who seek singers of the my-monotone-means-I'm-hiding-deep-thoughts school had best stay away.
Sexton's most recent CD (not counting a Christmas album, Camp Holiday, released late last year) was the double disc Live Wide Open, featuring the much-raved-about songs "Angeline" and "Beast in Me." Live allows the singer's power vocals to ring out fully unfettered.
In a 2004 interview on the music-review blog PhreshWater, Sexton credited his soulful style to his early years listening to "Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin."
Furthermore, he expressed, "I think the ... style in which I sing comes also largely in part because I tend to mean what I'm singing about; I really mean it. And when I mean something I think it brings on conviction -- I sweat, I shout it."
In fact, the first lyrics of "Angeline" could be retrofitted as the singer's own vision statement: "Girl you been freakin'/Like you never freaked before/Not that freakin' is uncool."
Certainly not -- in Sexton's case, freaking out might even be necessary. You'd hate to see what would happen if he couldn't let all that stuff out.
A reporter for howwastheshow.com, reviewing a Martin Sexton gig in Minneapolis, put it this way: "You are likely to be left wondering, as I was, how so much talent can be concentrated in a single person, and how that same individual can have such an overwhelming and downright spiritual effect on such a large number of people."
Martin Sexton plays the Biltmore Avenue Stage 9:30-11 p.m. on Friday.