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Equal parts sincerity and strength, Colleen Sexton has ably established herself as a respected artist and performer.
Combining the sweet sounds of the front porch in summer with the soul of a vintage Harlem night, she delivers it all.
Colleen migrated to New England from Syracuse, NY to attend law school, but instead quickly discovered the fertile Boston
singer-songwriter scene. She stayed in law school only two days, but has been touring throughout the United States and
Canada for four years. Critics have described her performance as "smoldering, sincere, and captivating": and her
songs as "intelligent" and "passionate." With her versatile voice, memorable songs, quick wit, and
warm stage presence, it is no wonder that fans are flocking to Colleen's shows.
With her brand new studio CD Greatest Find (Accord Music Group/Distributed
nationally by Telarc) Colleen is a fast-rising national presence. Greatest Find
brings a new edge to the singer-songwriter tradition. The CD features guest appearances by Martin Sexton, Cliff Eberhardt,
and Janis Ian. Canadian roots band and JUNO nominees, Zubot and Dawson are the backing band. The 12 new tunes on
Greatest Find showcase Colleen's talent as a soulful singer, gifted arranger,
and intelligent writer.
Colleen released Colleen Sexton LIVE (Crescent Records) in 2001. This highly-acclaimed live
recording illustrates her range and ability to connect with her audience. Colleen's debut CD, Step
Outside, garnered two 1999 Boston Music Award nominations, putting her among the elite of Boston songwriters. Her song
'Dear Arlene' appears on the Respond compilation CD, which Billboard Magazine's editor named the number one album of 1999.
She is proud to be an Associate Producer on the recent Respond II release (Signature Sounds, 2002). Colleen also contributed
songs to two blues tribute records on the Telarc label. Preachin' the Blues: The Songs of Mississippi Fred McDowell
was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album of 2002. Colleen sings the title track on Down the Dirt Road,
a tribute to Delta blues master Charley Patton.
In true troubadour fashion, Colleen performs at clubs, coffeehouses, colleges, and festivals throughout the United States
"Sexton is supporting her latest offering, 'Greatest Find', and folk fans of the Monadnock Region will appreciate what a
great find her songwriting really is. Powerful, passionate and sincere, Sexton upholds the tradition of quality passed down by female folk luminaries such as
Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell, while at the same time drawing inspiration from contemporary singer-songwriters like Ani DiFranco and Dar Williams."
-- Nathaniel T. Mitchell, Keene Sentinel
"Earthy singer-songwriter Colleen Sexton impresses with her pliant pipes and solid material on 'Greatest Find'"
-- Philadelphia Daily News
"Acoustically lush yet gently twangy, 'Find' is rich with hip harmonies and wisecracking homilies.
With a snappy yet carefree back up, Colleen discovers strong roots in a novel combination of bendable folk, sugar-free
pop and unplugged jazz." -- Maximum Ink
"['Greatest Find' is] Sexton's finest effort yet. 'Benediction' is a
stunning new original that soars on the strength of Sexton's impressive
vocals, while 'Mean Streak" is a delicate and drop-dead gorgeous affair."
-- Burlington Free Press
"Possesses a passionate, earthy voice, which she uses to deliver
literate character studies and weighty observations on society."
-- Performing Songwriter Magazine
"Her voice is at once joyous and weighted with emotion,
and her singing style has been touched by several genres. Jazz, blues,
folk, and pop have all left a mark on her vocals. She sings without
pretense and delivers her feelings openly." -- Annette C . Eshleman,
Dirty Linen Magazine
"Very promising, fast-rising new songwriter. She is very
much her own songwriter, but shares her brother's jazzy exuberance and
captivating vocal style." -- Scott Alarik, Boston Globe
Reviews of Greatest Find (Accord, 2003)
Identity Sexton's `Greatest Find'
"Colleen Sexton is proud to be Martin Sexton's sister. But with the release of her first full-length studio CD, the gifted younger Sexton is happy to be defined by more than her ties with her well-known sibling.
'This is my first nationally distributed record, and it allowed me to come out and say, "This is who I am and what I do" . . . and maybe come out of Marty's shadow,' Sexton said.
Her frisky, rootsy album, 'Greatest Find,' is on Accord, a new Maine label.
Sexton is aware that having a notable relative is both a help and a challenge. 'Marty has invited me to do a lot of shows and his fans are really receptive. A radio station might give me a listen because I'm Marty's sister,' she said.
Though Sexton doesn't mind being compared to all the other budding singer-songwriters on the crowded folk-pop scene, comparisons to her brother are not welcome. 'That's pretty tough competition,' she said.
The new CD invites one easy comparison. Like her brother, Colleen Sexton is an extroverted singer aware of older styles and imbued with energetic charm. 'We're both not afraid to have fun on stage, and make a real show of it. I consider Marty a master of live performing,' Sexton said.
Sexton moved from her hometown of Syracuse, N.Y., to Boston to attend law school. But that lasted about two days. 'I had no passion for it,' she said. 'And since Marty had already (musically) lifted himself out of the subways, I decided to play the subways and Harvard Square a bit. I had already played in college a little.'
So Colleen began making music in the same city, and the same basic folk-based genre, as her beloved bro. But she was wise enough to take each step with care and deliberate speed. First came a coveted spot on the first 'Respond' CD, in 1999. A six-song EP and a live album followed, with a few original songs joining her well-chosen covers.
'It's taken a long time to say, "Yes, I do consider myself a songwriter." I don't take it lightly. I'm still finding my voice. Yet I have found that you can grow, change and mature as a writer. That's happening to me, and I welcome it,' she said.
Sexton's writing bucks trends on two counts: She writes about others' lives more than her own, and her style is straightforward and linear. Janis Ian, Cliff Eberhardt and, yes, brother Marty, take guest turns, but the album's vocal joy and engaging energy belong to Colleen.
She even does a jazzy, scampering, oddly happy version of her brother's most dramatic cover song, Matt Samolis' 'The Way I Am.'
'I sing it as a tongue-in-cheek surprise. I'm going to get comparisons anyway,' she said. 'So I may as well put it out there.'"
-- Daniel Gewertz, Boston Herald
"New England singer-songwriter Colleen Sexton follows up her acclaimed debut, Step Outside, with Greatest Find, a winning collection of mostly original songs. Many of the tracks open with or are punctuated by great guitar hooks placed front and center in the mix. The general lyrical theme here is relationships ó budding, thriving, and failed. Sextonís versatile voice allows her to move confidently from upbeat numbers like the opening track, 'Got You on My Mind', to bluesy torch songs like 'Golden Treasure', and even allows her to pull off the vocal-and-bongos closing track 'Wild Bird in a Purple Plum'.
The tempo shifts from track to track, but Greatest Find keeps coming back to the groove, which makes it a good choice for driving in the car. Sextonís voice and guitar are backed by an excellent cast of musicians, including noted folkies Jesse Zubot and Steve Dawson on violin and guitar, respectively. Zubotís double-stopped fiddle adds a kind of Cajun touch to the bluesy 'Golden Treasure', and his eerie violin lines work beautifully in the somewhat funky and heavily charged 'Old Days.'
Producer Randy Labbe creates a different mood for each song ó accentuating the tough slide guitar and spooky fiddle parts on 'Never Needed (Bus Ride Song)', the meaty bass lines on 'Golden Treasure', and the heavily reverbed electric slide guitar on 'Old Days'. Percussionist Elliott Polsky contributes a lot to this recording, but MVP in the backup band should probably go to Tim Kelly for his right-on-the-mark Dobro lines on such songs as 'Mean Streak', 'School Days', and 'Golden Treasure'.
The track most likely to catch ears is the moving gospel number, 'School Days.' It starts off with a simple, repetitive guitar line, includes a soulful Dobro part, and features beautiful backup vocals by Sexton and her older brother Martin, whose powerful pipes and inimitable style have made him a star in the folk world.
Other highlights include 'Never Needed (Bus Ride Song)' and 'Mean Streak', a lovely, loping tune that gets better with each listen. It showcases Sextonís pure singing voice and features sisterly harmonies on the chorus by Janis Ian."
-- Simone Solondz, Taylor Guitars
Sexton Proves She's a Singer-Songwriter in Her Own Right
"'Greatest Find' indeed.
Colleen Sexton's new disc of that name proves that this singer-songwriter has earned her escape from the impressive shadow of her older brother Martin.
The Syracuse native shows she made a great decision when she ditched law school in Boston after only two days to pursue music. In 1999, she was nominated for two Boston Music Awards, for best new contemporary folk act and outstanding debut contemporary folk CD.
On Greatest Find, Sexton shows she's climbing out from the contemporary folk label, too.
Sure, the 13-song disc bursts with great guitar and life-in-America observations.
The stark images the ornery neighborhood woman in 'Mean Streak' come from a line like 'She's got a mean streak from the foundation up. She's got a mean streak, nothin ever good enough.'
On 'Old Days,' you can sense the foreboding for this marriage from the report, 'I liked you better in the old times, when at least you were a friend.'
Sexton shows her funky soul side, too, on 'Dear Arlene,' and lets her voice soar to the sky on the extra, non-liner-denoted closing cut. She sings, 'wild bird song in the heart of a purple plum tree.'
Sexton gets ample and able help from sweet-voiced brother Martin, as well as pop singer Janis Ian and folk singer Cliff Eberhardt.
It's a colorful journey all the way.
Greatest Find **** (out of 4)"
-- Mark Bialczak,The Post-Standard, Syracuse, NY
"Colleen Sexton came to New England from Syracuse, New York, to attend law school. She stuck with it for two days--two days
longer than most of us--and then made a career change to that of singer-songwriter. Her latest album is on the light, breezy pop
side of the singer-songwriter realm, making for a program of pretty music. Yet she's a versatile vocalist; and, with few exceptions,
Sexton is at her best the more she moseys away from the middle. For instance 'Old Days," about an affair
I liked you better in the old days
But the pull never died
has a decidedly murky, film-noir-ish edge. Lorraine Duisit's 'Wild Bird in the Purple Plum,' a nearly a cappella vocal in a hidden track,
is coffeehouse-folky by just about any standard. The ultra-simple percussion mixes rhythmic tappings with a light pulsing drumbeat,
while the lonesome vocal sound contrasts with the lyrics, 'In my heart, in my heart, I am dancing.' But the cut that's most
broadcast-ready is the bass-driven 'Pickin' Up Sticks.' It's a simple romantic song with verses such as
You like it in satin
You like it all done up in suede
I like wearin' your leather jacket
Feeling groovy when you
Cover me this way...
You've probably been there before. 'Pickin' Up Sticks' is ushered in by the rhythm guitar and a soft cymbal crash. The lead
guitar takes over, picking up marvelously at the ends of vocal lines."
-- Alan Lewis, New England Music Scrapbook
Review of Greatest Find by Roberta B. Schwartz on the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
Reviews of LIVE (Crescent, 2001)
- From Performing Songwriter (Vol 10, Issue 64, September/October 2002)
Top 12 DIY Reviews
Colleen Sexton Live
Produced by Neal Eckstein and Colleen Sexton
Colleen and brother Martin have both family and songwriting in common, but the younger Sexton travels her own path through blues, jazz, country, and
folk on a powerful collection of originals and covers. The Syracuse, NY native possesses a passionate, earthy voice, which she uses to deliver
literate character studies and weighty observations on society. The most potent song on the disc, "Scarecrow" reflects on the horrific murders of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr.
This hate is anger / Rage out of control / It's American as it old,
she sings of the crimes. Sexton's live performances draw strong reviews in the Boston area; now the rest of the country can share the experience.
- Review in Music Matters!
- Read the most recent review in Dirty Linen!
- Critic Choice, The Pitch(Lawrence, KS)
October 9th, 2002
"Having ditched her academic pursuits for Boston's alluring folk scene, Colleen Sexton finds herself in historically rarified company that includes
fellow raven-haired folkie Joan Baez. Though the resemblance - both physical and musical - is unmistakeable, Sexton also brings originality to
the table, displaying wit and wisdom beyond her years. Some critics label her warm vocal style jazzy, but her sensibilities extend beyond that niche -
Sexton smolders. -- John Kreicbergs
- Review of Down the Dirt Road: The Music of Charley Patton from All Music Guide
"Coordinated by acoustic Delta guitarist Steve James (who also penned the liner notes and appears on two tracks), this is a respectful but
refreshingly not-always-reverent tribute to the undisputed king of the Delta blues. Although there are only 12 tracks and some of Patton's defining tunes
-- like "Screamin' and Hollerin' the Blues" and "A Spoonful Blues" -- are MIA, these performances capture the spirit of Patton and show how his legacy
extends to contemporary blues musicians. There really isn't a bad or misguided track here (unusual for tribute discs), a situation helped by the
quality and pedigree of the musicians involved, who seek to maintain the rawness of Patton's blues. Certainly keeping the predominantly unplugged
music stripped to just guitar or harmonica (in the case of Snooky Pryor's amazing "Pony Blues," which finds the classic bluesman sounding as inspired
as ever), or both (as Annie Raines and Paul Rishell's take on Patton's spiritual "I Shall Not Be Moved"), maintains the focus. Delta-based artists
such as Corey Harris and Dave Van Ronk turn in fine if unsurprising performances. But the unexpected addition of Brit pub rocker Graham Parker
works surprisingly well, as his gritty voice (although not necessarily rudimentary guitar) does justice to "Poor Me." Harpist Charlie Musselwhite
sticks to guitar for an ominous yet sweet "Pea Vine Blues," but it's Joe Louis Walker's incendiary seven-and-a-half-minute version of "Sugar Mama"
and the closing medley of "Down the Dirt Road Blues"/"When Your Way Gets Dark," sung with a sexy, knockout approach by the album's only female
vocalist, Colleen Sexton, clocking in at nearly ten minutes, that are the album's highlights. They open up these songs, leaving room for improvisation
that expands the concepts but stays true to Patton's originals. One of the most successful albums of this type, this is an excellent (and
well-recorded) introduction to the music of one of the touchstones of the blues. -- Hal Horowitz
- From the Boston Herald
"Colleen Sexton is one of the top young talents of the coffeehouse
circuit, with a supple voice and a pop/r&b bent reminiscent of brother Martin."
- Ithaca Times
August 5, 1999
"Colleen Sexton has built up quite a following on the Northeastern folk circuit over the past two years. She plays over 100 gigs a year and plans on branching out to other regions in the coming months.
The folksinger was involved in putting together a benefit CD for Respond, a Boston shelter for women who have experienced domestic violence. The project eventually included artists like Juliana Hatfield, Patti Larkin, Jen Trynin and Catie Curtis who all contributed songs to the album.
'The compilation CD has gotten the word out for a lot of us that are on it," says Sexton. It opened new doors for her and resulted in a recent show in California. "I've never played there before, and there was a group of folks who knew me from the Respond CD,' she says. 'It was great to go to a place I'd never been before and have people there who knew me.'
Sexton is also making her debut at the Philadelphia Folk Festival later this month. "It's like a musician's little dream to go and play, but also to hear everybody else. I'm really looking forward to hearing Janis Ian."
She also plans on recording another album. 'I'm finishing up some material right now,' she says. 'I've been playing out a lot more. I think my live show has really changed over the last year and I can't help but think that will also have an effect whenever I get in the studio.' Sexton has a new song about hate crimes called 'Scarecrow' which she calls 'the heaviest song that I've ever written.'
Colleen Sexton is one of the region's shining stars. Tuesday she returns to Ithaca for a show at the ABC Cafe."
-- by Stu Fox
- Music Matters Review
Issue 10: January 1999
Picks: A glance at some more of our favorites
Colleen Sexton: Step Outside 1998, Crescent Records
"Marty Sexton's sister sets out on her own path in this debut recording.
With a touch of jazz and a lot of the blues, Sexton's supple alto soars
with passion and energy. Deb Blackadar on drums, brother Martin on electric
guitar and backing vocals, and Matt Samolis on flute provide fine backing
instrumentation. With five sharply written tunes and a bonus track, this
recording leaves us wanting for more. Besides, who else would have the
guts to cut a version of Gloria Gaynor's 'I Will Survive'? Colleen
Sexton is a talent to watch for. Marty who!?" -- by R. B. Schwartz
- From Soundcheck Magazine, Vol. 3, Issue 24:
Colleen Sexton - Club Passim, Cambridge - 6/4/98
"In addition to local troubadour heroes such as Ken Selcer and Michael Carreras,
a great part of the Syracuse-based Sexton clan was on hand for youngest daughter
Colleen's official CD release party. There was still some room for other fans of
this quick-rising, self sufficient star. That big brother Marty was in the house
certainly did not hurt Colleen's performance, but he was there strictly in a supporting
role. Colleen was the well-deserved headliner this sold-out night.
Backed by dobro-ist Tim Kelly, flautist Matt Samolis, the percussive Deb Blackadar
and the intermittent wails of blues harp-er Rob Laurens and infant niece Gaby,
Sexton (i.e. Colleen) led strongly with her full, high vocals and Delta sensibilities.
From her authentically bluesy rendition of Trouble in Mind (which fit well considering
the last minute heroics involved in actually getting her CD to the CD-release concert)
and the soulful 'I'm Leavin' (which included a brave dobro line by Kelly) to the
philosophical 'In Between' (a musical extrapolation of the oft-quoted concept 'Life is
what happens while you're making other plans') and the defiant 'Garden of Eden'
(again accented beautifully by Kelly's distant cries), Sexton demonstrated a
compositional competence that made it hard to discern the originals from the covers.
Joined by opener Sandi Hammond and co-writer Nathan Thompson for a vocal pile-up on
the titular Step Outside, Sexton took up brother Martin's minty hollow-body for a few
solo numbers, including her rousing and surprisingly tolerable take on 'I Will Survive',
which had the entire room singing along to end the special show on a very high (and loud)
note." -- by Matthew S. Robinson
- "An excellent newcomer, Colleen Sexton, stood out with original songs and
far-reaching covers from Patsy Cline's hit 'Crazy', to Gloria Gaynor's 'I Will Survive'... "
-- Steve Morse, Boston Globe
- "Playing to more than a full-house... Sexton had the audience intermittently dancing,
singing, and sighing in their seats... Her percussive strumming and well-toned vocals
blended everything together into an impressively layered sound." -- Matthew S. Robinson, Metronome Magazine
- The Syracuse Times also had good things to say about Colleen's
"ear-pleasing" tape. According to the New Times, Colleen
possesses a "creative gift for intelligent songwriting, accented by her
own clear vocal style."
For an interview
Cranky Pants Productions, SextonMusic@aol.com
- RECORD LABEL for "Greatest Find" (2003) - Accord Music Group, 207-873-2663, firstname.lastname@example.org
- RECORD LABEL for "Colleen Sexton Live" (2001) & "Step Outside" (1998) - Crescent Records, SextonMusic@aol.com
- PUBLICITY for "Greatest Find" - Public Emily, 413-527-4900, email@example.com
- RADIO PROMOTION - Western Beat Entertainment, Nick Pellegrino, 615-545-8898