Martin Sexton & The Ryan Montbleau Band
Martin Sexton knows how to work a microphone. With his entire face contorting from his lips to his earlobes, the singer/songwriter conjures his powerful vocals from somewhere unfathomably deep within. It doesn't hurt that his two microphones — one on a standard vocal setting and the other a traditional instrument mic with a heavy delay effect— are turned all the way up, allowing him to yodel between the two from well behind where they're placed.
It's a staggeringly impressive move — not unlike the players Sexton chose to back him, Boston's Ryan Montbleau Band. With unassuming poise, Montbleau followed his opening set by seating himself on a stool and ripping subtle but fiery electric guitar licks throughout Sexton's show. The band's keyboardist tossed in a little "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" tease (a la Allman Brothers), and the violinist soared when called upon. But, mostly, the six-piece backing section let the main man rule the roost, joining him on perfectly pitched four-part harmonies. Sexton's guitar and vocals were tweaked much higher than the others, letting his percussive acoustic finger stylings shine through the mix.
After a handful of tunes with the full band, Sexton took requests from the crowd during his solo portion, volume still cranked to fill the half-capacity Windjammer. Despite the lack of a sell-out, the crowd packed in around the stage, creating an intimate atmosphere for those who showed up. Montbleau's percussionist and drummer were the first to rejoin Sexton, before the band gradually meandered back on stage for about half a dozen closing numbers, digging deep from old cuts and largely avoiding Sexton's newly released disc, Sugarcoating.
"With a Little Help From My Friends" shined in the encore, with Sexton proving that he's one of the few taking on that epic Joe Cocker sing-along version of the Beatles' classic that can actually keep on par with the legendary voice. Then again, he's building a legend of his own, proving it in fine form last Thursday night.