life

Kelli Scarr Announces US Fall Tour / To Play The Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary Benefit

Kelli Scarr's interest in music and recording started early, at the age of three with her Nana using a handheld cassette recorder to record her singing. Growing up amongst the soundtrack of her parent’s records and singing in the Lutheran church of her hometown, music quickly became an important part of Kelli Scarr’s life.

After high school she moved to Boston, Massachusetts to study voice at Berklee, and she soon joined the band Moonraker.  Following college, Kelli, along with Moonraker, moved to Brooklyn, NY where they were thrown head first into the ever-expanding indie scene, opening for bands like the Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene.

After several years of touring and three albums, the band dissolved in 2005 and Kelli started to shift her musical focus more towards film scoring, composing the score for Matthew Nourse’s full-length feature, “The Pacific and Eddy” and Jeremiah Zagar’s documentary, “In a Dream” (HBO).  Kelli soon found herself nominated for best original score for, “In A Dream” by the Cinema Eye Honors alongside fellow nominees Nick Cave and Danny Elfman. It was also during this time that Kelli joined Brooklyn-based alt indie group, Salt and Samovar.

During an almost accidental bill sharing, Kelli was noticed by local NYC musician, Moby. After striking up a friendship, Kelli and Moby were soon working on music together with Kelli singing the title track of Moby’s haunting and introspective 2009 release, “Wait For Me” (Mute). Kelli also quickly joined Moby’s touring band for a world tour to support the critically acclaimed album. On top of singing and playing keyboards within Moby’s band, Kelli was also asked to open the shows, playing her own music in supporting slots for Moby and winning over crowds all over the world.

Amidst all of the transitions and touring, Kelli had begun recording songs on her own. She began simply by recording quiet piano songs at home in between working her hospital day job and in brief moments to herself during her three year old son’s naps. From what began as a simple process Kelli quickly found herself with a collection of recordings that spanned the world, two and a half years and included a diverse cast of musicians, engineers and producers.

The themes and inspiration for her music ranged from the once small gold rush town of Folsom, CA, now turned suburban sprawl, to the raising of a child and the wishes of a parent. For a majority of the record the songs acted as a therapeutic release and moment of reflection for the relationships in her life and the struggle to find peace within them. Along with these moments of self-release, her songs captured the images of her childhood and reflected everything from scenes of driving through California to the memories of her favorite childhood movies like Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz.

After a long and exhausting two and a half year process Kelli had a record of mainly home recordings, which she named, “Piece”; a name she adopted early on with the advice of friend and filmmaker Matthew Nourse, to help her visualize the album as a “snapshot in time” within an otherwise hectic time.

In the end “Piece” reflected a large portion of Kelli’s life and those around her. From the sounds of her creaky upright piano and midnight acoustic recordings to the whimpers of her son waking up from a nap in the next room, “Piece” captured an extremely personal journey, providing a photo album's worth of lush images. “Piece” will be released on August 10th, 2010 as the debut for indie start-up label, Silence breaks.

BILL EVANS TRIBUTE Tonight At Cornelia Street Café

We open our 2010/11 Serial Underground season with a unique evening to celebrate the great composer/pianist/jazz icon Bill Evans on the thirtieth anniversary of his death on September 15, 1980. Bill was an early mentor of mine. Although it took me a long to appreciate his influential lyrical side, the hard-swinging extroversion that characterized how he played in his last years grabbed me. I suspect our casual friendship arose from common musical interests; for instance, our mutual appreciation of great classical pianists. Bill set me up with a job fixing up and editing his transcribed solos for a book. and we painstakingly cross-checked details over the phone (this was before fax machines and computers, remember). I'd plunk out a chord on my piano, and he'd say yes or no or change this or keep that, and so forth.

Tonight's guest writers certainly bring us closer to the man behind the music. Bill Zavatsky's poems stay with you long after you read or hear them. Laurie Verchomin's upcoming memoir about her life with Bill Evans in the last year and a half of his life runs the full emotional gamut. Once I started reading it, I couldn't stop. Laurie and I decided to frame her words with piano music, and although I'm using Bill¹s compositions or, in some cases, songs associated with him, strangely enough, I'm not playing like him. Maybe a chord or two, or a favorite lick, but I just can't do my once letter-perfect Bill Evans imitation anymore. Perhaps that's a good thing. When I told Bill how much I had stolen from him, he said "Go right ahead. That's what I did when I was young. It only took me forty years to evolve my own style!"

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CORNELIA STREET CAFÉ
29 Cornelia Street, NYC, New York -- 212-989-9319
between West 4th and Bleecker Sts, Greenwich Village
1 Subway to Sheridan Square; A, C, E, B, D, V, F to West 4th St.

They Might Be Giants Take Over The East Coast This September!

They Might Be Giants continue their US tour, hitting the east coast this September.  The Brooklyn rockers will play a special free show as part of the Milennium Stage Series at the Kennedy Center in DC in addition to two performances at New York City’s Town Hall and the 5th annual “fan appreciation show” at Mohegan Sun!

The band is scheduled to play both days of this year’s Life is good Festival in the Boston area alongside three stages of headliners, including Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, OK Go, Ben Harper & Relentless7 and many more.  All proceeds go to benefit The Life is good Kids Foundation whose mission is to provide support to kids who face life-threatening conditions such as the trauma of violence, poverty and loss.

The Giants’ kids album, Here Comes Science, released in September 2009, has received praise across the board for its unique and exciting fusion of rock, education and humor. Boing Boing described the album as “top-notch pop music with humor that's aimed at both kids and adults” and called the album“better than great. Perfect.”

They Might Be Giants Tour Dates

09/11: Canton, MA @ Life is good Festival
09/12: Canton, MA @ Life is good Festival
09/24: Providence, RI @ Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel
09/25: Uncasville, CT @ Mohegan Sun Arena, 5th annual “fan appreciation show” (Free, 21+)
09/26: New York, NY @ Town Hall (Family Show, 12:30pm)
09/26: New York, NY @ Town Hall (Family Show, 3:30pm) (All Ages)
10/02: Washington, DC @ Millennium Stage Series at the Kennedy Center (Family Show, Free)
10/16: Port Washington, NY @ Landmark on Main Street/Jeanne Rimsky Theater (Rock Show, 3:00pm)
10/16: Port Washington, NY @ Landmark on Main Street/Jeanne Rimsky Theater (Rock Show, 8:00pm)
10/17: Morristown, NJ @ Community Center at Mayo Center for the Performing Arts (1:30pm)
10/17: Morristown, NJ @ Community Center @ Mayo Center for the Performing Arts (Family Show, 4:00pm)
10/30: Fairfield, CT @ Quick Center for the Arts (Family Show, 2:00pm) 10/30: Fairfield, CT @ Quick Center for the Arts (8:00pm)

Phish's "Live Bait" from Summer 2010

In case you missed this news, we have released a Free download sampler from Phish's Summer Tour 2010 Leg 1 called "Live Bait" which is the first in a series of free downloads that will be offered from livephish.com.  This volume of Live Bait will feature 10 tracks gleaned from the tour’s first leg, including older songs from the band's vast catalog (“Alumni Blues,” “Letter to Jimmy Page”) as well fan favorites (“Tweezer,” “Backwards Down the Number Line”) and a new track, “Show of Life,” which debuted this summer. It includes a widget through which fans can post to their favorite networking sites and share with friends. Live Bait is available now here.

Check out lots of summer Phish coverage on Grateful Web:

Telluride

Merriweather Post

Portsmouth, VA

My Morning Jacket's Carl Broemel to Release Solo Album

“It takes a lot of time to know your mind.”  Its a simple statement, yet earnest and profound in its offering.  Sometimes it’s the spaces in between, the subtleties and ambiguities that provide us with the most meaning.
 All Birds Say (ATO Records) is an intimate collection of musings on life from My Morning Jacket guitarist, Carl Broemel.

 Broemel reflects on things as they are with Zen-like contentment, making no judgment on how they should be...he gives pause for introspection but stops short of preaching. The songs are firmly planted between past and present.  It’s in these little fractured moments that the listener bears witness to thoughtful contemplation that give rise to epiphanies on larger themes.

Broemel could’ve taken the easy road and penned a lyrical triptych to the remarkable journey he’s experienced over the past several years, but instead All Birds Say is an incredibly honest and sincere insight into the artist’s inner-most thoughts as he attempts to reconcile his role in life.
 “Where do you start?  Or where do you stop?  And how do you reconcile the things you do versus the things you don’t?  It’s something I’m constantly thinking about.  I think there’s a lot of trying to be aware of what you’re doing now versus dwelling on things or worrying about what’s gonna happen later.  A lot of the songs are really just me talking to myself, trying to make sense of things in my head.”

Deft in its presentation, the songs on the album unfold in a dream-like stream of consciousness with lush and elegant arrangements.  The album’s brilliance is displayed in Broemel’s effortless delivery.  It’s the perfect amalgamation of lazy sophistication…whimsical poise and grace.  The instrumentation serves as the ideal complement to Broemel’s well crafted set of modern-folk standards; complete with pedal steel, dobro, strings, autoharp, clarinet, bassoon, vibraphone, and baritone sax, among others.  Think Ron Sexsmith, Neko Case, Neal Casal, Andrew Bird, Mose Allison, and early Boz Scaggs singing an orchestrated chorus of breezy ballads and waltzes.

The guitar figure of the instrumental title track that opens the album serves as a natural introduction to “Life Leftover,” an introspective meditation on the importance of being more present in life that’s at the heart of All Birds Say.  The album also afforded him the chance to collaborate with his own father, a former member of the Indianapolis Symphony who provides rich color and depth to the music with clarinet, baritone sax, and bassoon.

“To me, making records is like alchemy.  It’s something that no one can ever perfect, but you have an insatiable desire to keep doing it and get better at it.  I really believe that everything we experience contributes to what we do next, so this album is really a result of all the records and tours I’ve done so far.“

The best records always seem to be the ones that slowly reveal themselves like a pleasant surprise and allow the listener to peel through deeper layers upon repeated listen…the kind of records that you grow with and can go back to months later and hear something then that resonates with you in a way that wouldn’t have otherwise.  It’s an interactive process between the listener and the artist, and one to be thankful for.  This is the kind of album that epitomizes the vinyl experience; an instant classic that is sure to stand the test of time.

Listen to Bromel's 'Heaven Knows'

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Lucky Peterson interprets Tom Waits, Lucinda Williams, Ray LaMontagne, Robert Johnson & Blind Willie McTell

Lucky Peterson was discovered by blues legend Willie Dixon when he was three years old, released his first record at five and soon after appeared on The Tonight Show. Trained by keyboardists Bill Doggett and Jimmy Smith, Peterson went on to play behind Little Milton, Bobby “Blue” Bland and Kenny Neal. On return from the “Young Blues Giants” tour of Europe, he signed first with Alligator, then Verve, Blue Thumb and Birdology/Dreyfus, where he recorded what Amazon.com called “his finest album,” Black Midnight Sun, in 2003. The New Yorker called him “a master of the guitar, organ and microphone.”

But Lucky’s journey was not a smooth one, and Peterson spent the next few years in transition, working to free himself of drug troubles that had affected his health, family life and professional life. He spent time in treatment, making one-off records for small European labels, but never a proper follow-up to Black Midnight Sun.

But you can always turn around. These words took on special meaning for the 45-year-old Peterson, which is why the first album since his rehabilitation is titled You Can Always Turn Around. It is an uplifting collection of songs that speak of struggles and salvation, using the gritty clarity of acoustic roots-blues (with modern touches) as its main musical vehicle.

The album, scheduled for September 28, 2010 release on Dreyfus Records, was made in the Catskills with master Woodstock musicians Larry Campbell, guitar (Bob Dylan, Levon Helm); Scott Petito, bass (The Fugs, Mercury Rev, Rick Danko Band); and Gary Burke, drums (Joe Jackson, Shania Twain). Peterson as usual plays a mix of instruments: duolian resonator, piano and acoustic and electric guitars. Also prevalent is the acoustic piano on which Lucky sounds like a bluesy Elton John. “He’s something of a genius — his piano playing reminds me of Aretha Franklin,” says drummer Burke, who has played behind Franklin on the road.

But it’s Peterson’s vocal instrument that some might find most arresting. Peterson wraps his voice around an eclectic selection of blues-based materials including songs by original Delta bluesmen Robert Johnson, Rev. Gary Davis and Blind Willie McTell up through the music of today’s top songwriters including Lucinda Williams, Tom Waits and Ray LaMontagne. The album closes with a version of Curtis Mayfield’s “Think.”

“This album is very different for me — it’s more from the heart,” says Peterson.  “The songs were picked by (co-producer) Doug Yoel, and he knew my heart. I feel like all these songs were for me.”  The album would be the last co-production of Francis Dreyfus, who passed away on June 24, before the album’s release.

One standout on the album is the civil-rights era anthem “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free,” written by Billy Taylor and popularized by Nina Simone. The new recording introduces Tamara Peterson, Lucky’s wife, a worthy blues singer in her own right. The chemistry between Lucky and Tamara on that session was so exciting that Larry Campbell was prompted to invite the pair to appear with the Levon Helm Band at the Midnight Ramble concert the following night.

Peterson creates something brand new on “Trampled Rose,” turning a wordless hook into a seductive Arabian-flavored line. The band responded to and fed the creativity of the newly awakened Lucky Peterson, and the results are truly special.

Peterson continues to tour, doing dates big and small. This new album should increase awareness of and demand for this one-of-a-kind musician.

And when off the road, he’ll be at his church in Dallas, Texas with his family, holding on, and playing for one very lucky congregation.

TRACK LIST:

1. I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom (Robert Johnson)
2. I'm New Here (Bill Callahan)
3. Statesboro Blues (Blind Willie McTell)
4. Trouble (Ray LaMontagne)
5. Trampled Rose (Tom Waits / Kathleen Brennan)
6. Atonement (Lucinda Williams)
7. Why Are People Like That (Bobby Charles)
8. Four Little Boys (James Peterson / Judge Peterson)
9. Death Don't Have No Mercy (Rev. Gary Davis)
10. I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas)
11. Think (Curtis Mayfield)

Judy Collins' Elektra albums to be reissued on Collectors' Choice

Collectors’ Choice Music will reissue nine albums by Judy Collins, one of the great interpretive folksingers of our time, representing a good portion of her Elektra Records years from 1966-97. Collins’ clear soprano, unerring taste and uncommon sensitivity to her material has enriched songs by everybody from Bob Dylan to Jacques Brel to Stephen Sondheim, and while she began her career by interpreting the work of others, she would become an acclaimed songwriter as well. Her fearless approach to trying new arrangements, instrumentation and repertoire has made her albums among the most absorbing and fulfilling of any singer-songwriter releases.

On July 27, 2010, Collectors’ Choice will issue digitally remastered CDs of nine of Collins’ Elektra titles: Fifth Album (1965), In My Life (1966), Whales & Nightingales (1970), True Stories & Other Dreams (1973), Bread & Roses (1976), Running for My Life (1980), Times of Our Lives (1982), Home Again (1984) and Christmas at the Biltmore (1997). The albums contain newly commissioned liner notes by Ritchie Unterberger that include interviews with Collins.

According to Collectors’ Choice Senior Vice President Gordon Anderson, “Judy Collins is one of those artists we always dreamed of reissuing, but never dreamed we would get the chance. We are thrilled to release these legendary albums on Collectors’ Choice with the love and respect they deserve.”

Fifth Album: This 1965 release, which charted #69 on the Billboard album chart, cemented Collins’ status as the foremost interpreter of the best 1960s songwriters to emerge from the folk revival. In addition to songs by Gordon Lightfoot, Phil Ochs, Eric Anderson, Tom Paxton, John Phillips and Richard Fariña, the album contains three Bob Dylan compositions, two of which (“Tomorrow Is a Long Time,” “Daddy You’ve Been on My Mind”) he didn’t release on his own records in the ’60s. The Mark Abramson-produced recording featured John Sebastian on harmonica, Danny Kalb and Eric Weissberg on guitars, and Fariña on dulcimer.

• In My Life: Collins’ 1966 album In My Life saw her make a bold leap from the folk-grounded arrangements and material of her previous work into a hybrid of folk, classical and pop that was dubbed “baroque folk.” Joshua Rifkin, fresh from the Baroque Beatles Book, arranged and conducted. In addition to the first appearances of Leonard Cohen songs on any release, this album, which reached #65 on the charts, includes compositions by Bob Dylan, Donovan, the Beatles, Richard Fariña, Jacues Brel (to whom she was turned on to by Elektra founder Jac Holzman) and a then-unknown Randy Newman.

• Whales & Nightingales: For Collins’ 1970 album Whales & Nightingales, producer Abramson left the confines of the studio to record at such locations as Carnegie Hall, the Manhattan Center and St. Paul’s Chapel at Columbia University. Holzman recalls in his book Follow the Music: “We decided to pick locations that matched the emotional ambience of the songs we were recording.” The album includes unusual treatments of traditional folk songs (the haunting “Farewell to Tarwathie” includes recordings of whales), as well as songs by Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Jacques Brel. Collins’ hit version of “Amazing Grace,” featuring her then-boyfriend Stacy Keach, is on this release.

True Stories & Other Dreams:
Having exquisitely interpreted virtually every songwriter of note from the ’60s, Collins began including a few of her own songs on her albums (beginning with 1967’s Wildflowers). She brought her own songwriting to the fore on this 1973 release, contributing over half the material. In addition to five Collins originals, the album contains the Top 40 hit “Cook With Honey,” penned by Valerie Carter. Also featured is Tom Paxton’s “The Hostage,” written in the wake of the Attica prison riots and a 7 1/12-minute song titled “Che” about revolutionary Che Guevara. The album rose to #17 on the album chart.

• Bread & Roses: For the title track of this Top 30 1976 LP, Collins’ friend Mimi Fariña set to music the poem after which she’d named her humanitarian organization Bread & Roses. The album also features an eclectic group of composers including Leonard Cohen, Elton John, Duke Ellington and Chilean singer-songwriter-activist Victor Jara, with production by Arif Mardin and engineering by Phil Ramone. Players included Hugh McCracken, guitar; David Sanborn, sax; and Tony Levin, bass.

Running for My Life: This 1980 album marked the first occasion on which Judy Collins claimed sole production credit for one of her LPs. It was also notable for her spot-on performances of two songs from Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd (she was no stranger to Sondheim’s work, having had a hit with “Send in the Clowns” in the mid-’70s). Songs also include a Jacques Brel composition (“Marieke,” which Collins had recorded previously but wanted to revisit), and one by Larry Gatlin (“I’ve Done Enough Dyin’ Today”).

• Times of Our Lives: This album, released in ’82, once again demonstrates that Collins is a singer capable of covering just about any kind of material as she deftly interprets three songs by country hit songwriter Hugh Prestwood (author of Randy Travis’ 1990 #1 hit “Hard Rock Bottom of Your Hearty”), a tune by Anna McGarrigle (“Sun Son”) and five of her own. Featuring musicians Hugh McCracken, Tony Levin and banjoist Bill Keith, Rolling Stone called this album her best since 1973’s True Stories & Other Dreams.

• Home Again: Collins’ final studio album for Elektra, released in 1984, features her own composition “Shoot First,” which benefited the National Alliance Against Violence. It also features a duet with country star T.G. Sheppard on the title track (with lyrics by Gerry Goffin) and a co-write with Elton John, “Sweetheart on Parade,” which John never recorded on his own albums. The album contains the Henry Gross composition “Everyone Works in China.” Producers were the jazz-steeped team of Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen.

Christmas at the Biltmore: Following albums on such labels as Geffen and Gold Castle, Collins returned to Elektra for the 1997 soundtrack to a holiday special on the A&E cable network. Recorded live in an intimate setting at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, this record proves once again that Collins’ powers of interpretation really know no time or season as she makes these familiar songs her own. Includes “Joy to the World,” “Silver Bells,” “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” “Jingle Bells” and even a version of “The Night Before Christmas” with new words penned by Collins.

Performing Artist Jill King To Release New Album RAIN ON FIRE

Songstress Jill King releases on April 6 a new studio album, RAIN ON FIRE (Foundher Records), which the artist describes as life-changing for its renewal of her passion for music and for life and as a gift for listeners who might need a similar lift upward.

The new CD is a collection of heartfelt and thought-provoking love songs and ballads written and co-written by King that mesh blues, pop, R&B, country and jazz into her solid folk-rock sound, elevated by her stunning vocals and the slide and steel guitar vibe of Australian Michael Flanders, who produced the album with King.

It includes “Beautiful World,” “California” and “I’ll Keep Loving You” — three songs that reflect King’s life journey through joy and sorrow — as well as “Mark on Me,” which features a spoken-word intro and outro by Steven Johnson, the grandson of blues legend Robert Johnson, and the sensual “Undertow,” which was featured in the February 26 episode of the Web soap “Venice The Series.”

King and Flanders were joined in the studio by an array of respected musicians and friends including Congress House Studios’ Mark Hallman on bass, drums, loops, percussion, B3 and piano as well as Brady Blade (drums, percussion), Victor Broden (bass), Jason Millhouse (fat guitars), Bruce Holloway (guitar), Phil Madeira (piano, accordion, B3), Savannah Jo Lack (violin, string arrangement & performance), Rob Mackay (strings, tenor ukulele), Denise Locke (keyboards), Alex Torrez and Ben Flanders (percussion), and Thom Flora, Doug Stokes and Nels Andrews (background vocals) and a gospel choir made up of Marsha Hancock, Alana Griffith, Christina Taddonio.

A special-edition version of the CD includes a fascinating book by King that intricately details the impetus behind each of the songs, an essay on the making of the album and documentary photography by Nashville-based artist Whitney Jones.

King will put together a band for extensive touring behind the album that includes shows through August across the Southeast and California and Texas.

Born and raised in deep-South Arab, Ala., King was singing solos in church at 3 and was playing guitar and writing songs by age 10, when she made her first record at a local studio. Being surrounded by heaven-and-hell ideologies and later her brother’s death from cancer have influenced her life, her songwriting and her sound: a mix of genres, moods and messages.

Bing and Ruth Premiere Debut Single "Rails"

Brooklyn band Bing and Ruth is an 11-piece ensemble led by composer and pianist David Moore.  Described by the New York Times as "making the most of layered and atmospheric melody," the band utilizes clarinets, voices, cellos, and a buffet of other acoustic instruments to craft expansive soundscapes and quiet microtonal textures.  Formed among friends in 2006, they have self-released two records, the "Bing and Ruth" EP in 2006, and the full-length "Kentile Floors" in 2007.

In it's young life the ensemble has garnered a reputation for unique and engaging life performances, with recent shows in the New York area including the Wordless Music Series, the MATA Festival, the WFMU Festival, Stochastic Brooklyn, and the Darmstadt New Music Series at Issue Project Room.  They have shared the stage with a wide variety of performers among whom include Múm, Max Richter, and So Percussion.

Additionally they have become known for their habit of performing in unique spaces not normally associated with music; places like an abandoned meat locker, a rural chicken coop, a vacant apartment, and a warehouse rooftop.

David, along with Bing and Ruth, was recently commissioned to create two new multimedia works with filmmaker Sébastien Cros that saw their premier at the 2009 MATA Festival in New York City.

The ensemble has recently completed work on a new full-length album with an expected release in 2010.

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