Cruel and Gentle Things

To those accustomed to catching bluesman “Little Charlie” alongside the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, it was a surprise in 1985 when the seventeen-year-old CHARLIE SEXTON turned up on MTV (mascara, cheekbones, and all) belting out his synth-pop hit “Beat’s So Lonely.” Sexton has come far since those moments of fleeting fame, producing Lucinda Williams and Los Super Seven and touring and recording with Bob Dylan, but the Austinite has never completely shaken his image as a directionless talent. CRUEL AND GENTLE THINGS (Back Porch), only his fourth album and his first in a decade, dispels that notion. It’s the work of a more focused and mature artist, full of warm, personal tales and strong emotional fare like “Burn” and “It Don’t Take Long.” Sexton’s too fond of his studio tricks, though; at times his gloss overwhelms the intimacy of his material.

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