MUSIC REVIEW- Show of spirit: Martin Sexton's universal passion

There was a Star Trek episode where Captain Picard was having a drink with his archenemy, Q. Q was always on a mission to show Picard that he didn't know everything, that he was far from prepared for what life had in store for him. During the conversation, Q picked up a glass of some odd-colored liquid (a Star Trek mixed drink) and used it to illustrate why language is a barrier between people.

He held the glass at Picard's eye level, said a word in a language Picard did not understand, and asked him to say what he thought the word meant. Picard guessed the word to be "drink." He was wrong. The word could have been any number of things: glass, liquid, full, or cold.

There are an infinite number of possibilities for a word when one lacks a basic understanding of the language or of the culture that speaks it. In the end, Q was illustrating a completely different point: he was holding the mirror up so Picard could see his own ignorance.

Such an interchange speaks volumes. It also has more universal application. That same gray area of interpretation can be applied to spirituality. Spirituality, in a sense, is that glass full of mystery liquid. Religion is the interpretation of it. That's why there are so many different religions. Everyone has his own belief about spirituality. Thus, the Buddhist doesn't see the glass the same way a Catholic does...

These were the thoughts swimming through my gray matter as I watched Martin Sexton perform his one-man show at Starr Hill Friday night, February 18. Here's a man whose demeanor is more southern Baptist preacher than singer-songwriter. His song selection ranged from old country blues to gospel. He threw elements of Latin guitar, hip-hop, soul, and rock into the mix. There was no telling where he would take his songs. He went from a Hendrix tune to a chorus of "Amen" within the span of five minutes.

Sexton held the audience enthralled the entire time, and in their submission, they opened themselves to his world by joining him in sing-a-longs and acting as the choir to his soloing by belting out responses to his call. He referred to the crowd many times as his "little angels."

My first instinct was that Sexton was a Christian rocker, but I quickly understood him to be much more than that. His passionate singing about God did not qualify him as a religious rock act. He sang just as passionately about love, sex, and everyday life– the subject didn't matter. What mattered most was whether the music could evoke a profound emotion in him and the audience.

Sexton performed as if possessed– like he had the Holy Ghost. His body served as a vessel for whatever attitude or style he was choosing to convey at the time. Most impressively, he was comfortable with it all. The songs came easily, the notes flowing effortlessly from his mouth as his hands played the guitar like an extra appendage he's had since birth.

His presence and his music filled the room with a feel-good spirit. Just like his song selection and playing, that spirit was universal. It didn't matter if you were Christian or even believed in God. The Martin Sexton show is a revival of a different sort. He just shows that inspiration and passion in music happen across the board– whether church songs or otherwise.

The same spirits that are conjured when one sings "Amen" can be summoned when singing "The Wind Cries Mary." You can pigeonhole the song by saying it's Christian or rock, or you can just see it as a good song that requires no further categorization. Truthfully, it doesn't matter how you see it; the Martin Sexton show is one uplifting experience.