Review: The Sexy Sounds of The Sextones’ Retro Soul

The Sextones
Love Can’t be Borrowed
(Record Kicks)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

With a name like The Sextones, the music has to be sexy right? Well, it is, but the quartet’s moniker is actually taken from the Sexton brothers; frontman/guitarist Mark and his bass-playing sibling Alexander.

These ten tracks mine the late ‘60s to the mid (i.e.:pre-disco) ‘70s soul, capturing that often sultry sound with a vibe so entrancing and authentic, you’ll think you found a reissue from some lost Chicago vocal group of that era. It helps having Monophonics’ mastermind Kelly Finnigan as producer, mixer, engineer, and all-around mentor to help these guys nail their faithful groove; one so accurate it’s hard to believe it was created by a contemporary band. 

From the Norman Whitfield-influenced psychedelic low boil funk of “The Other Side,” which seems like it came off an old Undisputed Truth release, to the sensual, bedroom-ready, string and glockenspiel infused ballad “Beck & Call” and the Motown-inspired “Without You,” the band and their producer have fashioned an unabashedly retro album with melodies that stick after a single spin and production capturing the style without affectation or artifice.

Despite its two years in the making germination, these songs roll out with effortless grace. It’s fun to play “spot the influence” as the tunes unspool; Hey, there’s a Curtis Mayfield riff, here’s a tune that must have been an old Spinners B-side (it’s not, these are all originals), and isn’t that something the Delphonics recorded?

Listen to the bass and wah-wah guitar intro to the slinky “Getaway Driver” and the bluesy, slow dance horns of “Trouble on My Mind” to appreciate how each successfully captures old-school quirks. Mark Sexton’s tenor isn’t as distinctive as the greats that came before him– whether it be Mayfield, Eddie Kendricks, or Marvin Gaye– but he delivers the smooth, sweet goods effectively enough. And since ‘60s acts like The Chi-Lights, The Stylistics or The Dramatics aren’t around anymore, The Sextones and multi-instrumentalist Finnigan are happy to plug that void.

Like the classic albums those folks cut, these lost/found love songs are short and concise but never rushed. Only one breaks four minutes and others don’t even make it to three. Perhaps some faster tempos would shift away from the similar approach, but that’s a small complaint for such a meticulously crafted collection.

Dim the lights, light candles, pour some wine, and let The Sextones take care of the rest.  

The Sextones photo by Calvin Hobson       

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