Savannah's great music year continues in proper form this week.
Longtime singer-songwriter and folk-rock great Martin Sexton will make the trip from the cold Northeast to the only slightly warmer Coastal Empire. The Syracuse, N.Y., native has never played in the Hostess City. After 20-plus years in the music business, Sexton will be making his Savannah debut Feb. 5 at The Wormhole.
"I am like Johnny Cash; I've been everywhere," Sexton said via telephone on his way to a show in Massachusetts. "But I haven't played Savannah. It's my Savannah debut, and I am excited about that."
With nine albums, including live recorded performances at places like The Fillmore and Madison Square Garden, the 47-year-old Martin delivers his down-to-earth folk rock with invigorating bravado and a vocal range that rivals any living artist. (See his Live At the Fillmore version of "Purple Rain").
Sexton has a passion that is fueled by a deep love and joy, not for adoration, but for the music he makes. It has kept him pushing on through the years and has brought the listening populous an auspicious discography.
"At the beginning, the sole driving force was pure passion and guts," Sexton said. "When you first start out, you get your whole life to make your first record. Now the driving force is a combination of craft and a loving obligation. It's my work, it's my dedication, my devotion - it's taking care of my family.
"And just joy. I think joy is a big driving force for me. I get a great sense of joy in doing what I do," he said.
Although folk music is a popular genre again, with the advent of acts like Mumford and Sons and The Avett Brothers, singer-songwriter and acoustic-based music hasn't always been loved by American listeners. When Martin begin his career in the 1990s, folk was a dirty word.
"When people called me a folk singer at the time, I didn't really like it," Sexton admitted. "At the time, the folk music I knew wasn't Dylan or The Byrds, it was that kind of lackluster '90s stuff, of people singing about what they had for breakfast. At least that was my opinion.
"Now, I am seeing real important music happening, that is acoustic based and harkens back to real folk music. Songs that are really saying stuff and moving people. That is what folk music is about," he said.
Today, there seems to be a rediscovery of all things Americana, and it's hard to imagine that resurrection doesn't in part owe its new life to the staples of the genre.
"I think it's beautiful that people are basically waking up and realizing what good music is," Sexton said. "And it's great to see real music get popular. I think it's wonderful, that acoustic-based, song-based music is popular again. Songs that are really saying stuff and moving people.
"That is what folk music is about. It's the music of the people," he said.
Sexton cut his teeth as a street performer in Boston many years ago. He found influence for his music from a host of sources, and has since collaborated with the likes of John Mayer and Peter Frampton. He's gone from the street to having his music aired nationally on several television shows and to millions of fans.
"I didn't even know what folk music was," Sexton said. "I was into classic rock, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and Hendrix and so on. I didn't even know who guys like John Hiatt, Chris Whitley ... I didn't know who they were till I moved to Boston. Then I got my education there on the streets of Boston, listening to guys like Hyatt, Whitley and Jeff Buckley."
Sexton is currently writing for a new album, due out early next year. Tickets for his show at the Wormhole, where he will be debuting some new material, are available on his website.