Texan Charlie Sexton was a child prodigy – he got his first guitar at the age of four and played lead guitar in Joe Ely’s band before he was old enough to buy a drink – but he never really lived up to his potential.
On his first LP Pictures for Pleasure (1986), Sexton was reduced to a puny element in producer Keith Forsey’s synth-heavy mix.
It also didn’t help that Sexton’s prematurely world-weary vocals suggested David Bowie on Thorazine.
Dense electronic layering so overwhelmed the songs that it is almost irrelevant to talk about the quality of the “playing”.
In true boy-wonder fashion, Sexton handled vocals, guitar, bass and keyboards on the record, but while all the performances are immensely skilful, all lack character and distinction.
Sexton managed a minor hit with Beat’s So Lonely (1986), a single from the album, but nowhere on the album could you find a performance that would have endeared Sexton to a tenacious bandleader like Joe Ely.
Having failed in his bid for Billy Idol-style stardom, Sexton fell back on his six-string for his second album, and the improvement was immediately apparent.
Anorexic teen-idol looks notwithstanding, Sexton had more to say with his guitar than with his larynx.
With Bob Clearmountain and Tony Berg producing, the guitar-raw sound of Charlie Sexton was more in line with Sexton’s strengths than that of his debut.
Sexton teamed up with Stevie Ray Vaughan‘s old rhythm section to gig and record as the Arc Angels in 1992, and later with former members of The Bo-Deans and of Joe ‘King’ Carrasco’s band to record as the Charlie Sexton Sextet, mining the Tom Petty/John Mellencamp vein for all they were worth.