Charlie Sexton Sextet: Under the Wishing Tree – with “Home Sweet Home” video cover

Charlie Sexton Sextet - Under the Wishing Tree Part 9 of 12 Albums That Stuck With Me

I have a distinct memory of finding this album in the record store. It was in the small tourist town down the hill from my college; the fourth track, “Everyone Will Crawl”, had been on the radio the previous year.

As these things tend to go, that moderate hit song paled in comparison to the rest of the album.

I’m normally not overly impressed by music from virtuosos, whether the exceptional talent be singing or an instrument like, in this casae, guitar. It tends to be a platform for showcasing technical skills rather than making songs that sound good. Sexton gets plenty intricate with guitar solos, fills, and pedal gymnastics, but Under the Wishing Tree is so memorable because of the depth of storytelling and intense arrangements.

It’s at its most poignant when Sexton speaks about his childhood. “Sunday Clothes”, track six, is a deceptively jaunty song about how church helped him deal with a broken home life and a father in prison. The earnest religiosity never tips into outright praise or preachiness, even when he proclaims that “God is watching” in the final track, “Broken Dream”. The mood is not self-satisfied or superior, but relieved and thankful. This is Christian rock I can get behind.

The album is also just plain long. At 72 minutes, its twelve songs average six minutes each. In reality there’s four songs exceeding six minutes but among them the 12-minute epic “Plain Bad Luck and Innocent Mistakes”. Only one song, “Railroad”, comes close to a radio-friendly four minutes, and that’s because its first 15 seconds are inexplicably at the end of the previous track.

“Plain Bad Luck and Innocent Mistakes” uses its running time to look back at his parents’ life – a tale of ’60s rebellion that uses sensitive, piercing lyrics and composed but honest rock and roll to paint its characters with sympathy and grandeur. It starts off quietly and builds to more than one climax by its end.

In fact, the peak moment of the whole album occurs in the song after that, “Home Sweet Home”, which I attempt to afford some tiny justice below. It revels triumphantly in small victories.

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