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Colleen Sexton Link:

Colleen Sexton

Colleen Sexton
2000, Crescent Records

Colleen Sexton is a very appealing performer with a lot of heart and passion. Her supple alto tackles covers as well as original compositions with equal ease. She draws from a variety of genres and influences, including jazz, blues, pop and folk, but the sound is all her own. And Sexton is at her best live on stage. Her new CD, Live, captures the best of her talent and her unique sound.

The recording opens with a cover of Cliff Eberhardt's signature song, "My Father's Shoes," a powerful anthem about breaking from the past. But Sexton doesn't need to turn to the master songwriters to deliver a tune—she's a talented writer herself. "Promised Land," co-written with Nathan Thompson, says it all about broken promises, broken relationships, and what lies ahead:

They say he can walk on water
Well I can walk on ice
And I can tell the difference
Because it's bitter out tonight

Her vocals soar, dip and float, just as the heart does on the ocean of love.

On Willie Nelson's "Crazy," Sexton lends some wonderful blues stylings to the classic country song, and does a bit of scat singing as well. I love the way she turns this tune on its head, making it her own.

But what makes it hard to look at Colleen Sexton as just one more singer-songwriter trying to make her way, is the unforgettable "Scarecrow," led by her driving guitar and lyrics which strike at the heart and mind. The song reflects on two of the most horrific hate crimes in recent memory: the murder of Matthew Shepherd in Laramie, Wyoming, and the dragging death of James Byrd, Jr. in Jasper, Texas. Her vocals, moving, passionate and on target, not only blame the young men who committed these crimes, but the America from which they grew:

Straw is gonna break
Strawman's gonna break, America
God shed his grace on thee
America, land of the brave, and of the free

The blues-inspired "Dear Arlene" is probably Colleen Sexton's best-known song as it has appeared on her earlier CD, Step Outside, as well as the hugely successful compilation of the Boston area's best female singer/songwriters, Respond. Trina Hamlin on harmonica and Tim Kelly on acoustic guitar provide particularly good backup here.

On her second trip to the studio Colleen Sexton delivers on the goods promised by her earlier recording. Colleen Sexton Live is the work of a talented artist on the road to wider recognition. Armed with a voice that easily covers a range of styles, and with a pen that captures the heart of the blues and the depth of what is wrong with America, Sexton is an artist to watch as she continues to both charm and engage us with her warmth, power and passion. Live is testimony to a star on the rise.—Roberta B. Schwartz

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