Marshall Ford Swing Band To Release Debut Album

Marshall Ford Swing Band — the “young and refreshing” Austin five-piece whose vocals, piano, guitars, bass and beat combine for a swing sound that sometimes goes country and sometimes scatters some jazz — releases its first studio album, the bright and buoyant IT’S ABOUT DAM TIME, on February 16 with CD release shows across the state.

Marshall Ford Swing Band members — Emily Ann Gimble (vocals and piano), Greg Harkins (guitar and vocals), Jeremy Wheeless (guitar), James Gwyn (drums) and Kristopher Wade (upright bass) — give it their all, onstage and now in the studio.

Word of mouth in Austin music circles and gigs in some of the city’s most popular restaurants and other venues, as well as time at the fiddle camp of legend Johnny Gimble (yes, Emily’s grandfather), have pushed the band’s evolution from its traditional country start to one embracing Western swing and its most engaging elements: retro shout vocals, twin guitar leads (by Harkins and Wheeless), an animated piano, and lyrics simple and straightforward.
Like the album, the band’s shows are full of up-tempo old-time swing tunes that band members love and love to play and country- and jazz-infused originals — all of which set toes to tapping and couples to dancing.
“This group’s tunes are reminiscent of the early days of swing music, where the bass kept the beat and the mandolin was a prominent fixture,” said the Austin American-Statesman.
Marshall Ford Swing Band upcoming shows include:
February 14, Sengelmann Hall, Schulenberg*
February 18, Dan’s Silverleaf, Denton*
February 19, The All Good Café, Dallas*
February 20, Saxon Pub, Austin*
February 26, Poodie’s Hilltop Bar & Grill, Spicewood
February 27, Dosey Doe, The Woodlands*
March 6, Auslander Biergarten, Fredericksburg*
March 8, Sam’s Burger Joint, San Antonio*
March 11, The Continental Club, Austin
March 26, Camp Street Café, Crockett
April 9, Central Market North, Austin
May 29, The Cain Center, Athens, Texas
* CD release shows

Marton Sexton readies new album 'Sugarcoating'

Sugarcoating, Martin Sexton’s new album due out April 6, 2010, finds the one-of-a-kind artist doing what he does best: locating larger truths within specific details of the life he’s living. “I write from personal experience — my own hang-ups and quirks, good times and bad times. That keeps it real.”

The Syracuse-born artist tracked Sugarcoating live off the floor in seven days with a remarkably cohesive studio band composed of what Sexton describes as “amazing players, the best you could find.”

“Each song is so stylistically different from the next,” adds Sexton, “I’ve always preferred records that range, sort of like the White Album, from ‘Black Bird’ to ‘Helter Skelter.’ At one time, industry types tried to convince me to stick with one genre, but it was like wearing a suit that didn’t fit.”

“I recorded this album with no rehearsals, no pre-production, using all vintage gear from what went into the mics to what came out on the analog tape . . . I like making records like the old jazz guys did — they just showed up and worked it out.”

The title track, disturbing in its theme and audacious in its presentation, takes “keeping it real” to another level. An unsettling look at post-9/11 reality, the song encapsulates in the lines “I wonder why nobody wonders why/with all the sweet sweet sweet sugarcoating/the nightly news gone entertainment biz/and politicians out showboatin’/One day somebody tell it like it is.” Which is exactly what Sexton accomplishes here. The fact that this urgent message is embedded in a danceable, happy-go-lucky arrangement complete with backing vocals by what Sexton calls his “cowboy trio” only serves to deepen the song’s impact.

Other songs on Sugarcoating include “Long Haul,” a Bakersfield-rooted, bluesy, earth-toned shuffle that celebrates the unparalleled richness of a long-term relationship; “Shane,” in which Sexton imagines the experiences awaiting his infant son; “Found,” which asserts that our wired existence drowns out our ability to see others clearly; and “Always Get Away,” a lament about missed opportunities and unforeseen circumstances. Sexton says, “It’s about forgiveness — forgiving oneself the mistakes you’ve made in the past. It’s about knowing who I am and who I’m not, and about having a conscious contact with my inner voice and my higher power.”

Not every song is heavy. The first single, “Livin’ the Life,” is a buoyant joy-of-existence piece with a churning clavinet burrowing a deep soul groove right through it.  “Stick Around” is a piano-driven Beatlesque bouncer complete with an Abbey Road reference in the lyric; and “Easy on the Eyes” is a finger-snapping, ragtime mating call with a voice trumpet solo from Sexton.

It’s Sexton’s uncanny ability to connect the personal to the universal via songs like these that has earned him such a devoted following among fans and critics alike. The New York Times’ Jon Pareles wrote that the artist “jumps beyond standard fare on the strength of his voice, a blue-eyed soul man’s supple instrument . . . his unpretentious heartiness helps him focus on every soul singer’s goal: to amplify the sound of an ordinary heart.” He’s also renowned among his peers. John Mayer calls him “one of the greatest singers of our generation.”

With Sugarcoating, Sexton may well have made his defining record. It’s an unquestionable high point for the modern troubadour who headlines venues from the Fillmore Auditorium to Nokia Theater Times Square, oversees his KTR label and derives great satisfaction from the life he’s made for himself. These are the fruits of a combination of rarefied talent, fierce determination, “and work — showin’ up,” he adds, sounding like Jeff Bridges’ Bad Blake character in Crazy Heart: “I sing for free man. I get paid to travel.”

Sexton will tour North America with a new band April through June in support of the release.

Track listing
1. Found
2. Boom Sh-Boom
3. Always Got Away
4. Livin the Life
5. Sugarcoating
6. Stick Around
7.  Long Haul
8.  Shane
9.  Wants Out
10. Friends Again
11. Easy on the Eyes
12. Alone 13. Just To Be Alive