Hear Rayland Baxter's Tribute to 'Sugar Man' Sixto Rodriguez - Rolling Stone
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Hear Rayland Baxter’s Tribute to ‘Sugar Man’ Sixto Rodriguez

Nashville songwriter previews his new album ‘Imaginary Man’ with a song about the ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ artist

Rayland BaxterRayland Baxter

Rayland Baxter salutes musician Sixto Rodriguez in his new song "Mr. Rodriguez."

Erika Goldring/Getty Images

Rayland Baxter

Mysterious cult-sensation songwriter Sixto Rodriguez, the subject of the Oscar-winning 2012 documentary Searching for Sugar Man, was once presumed dead, but he’s alive and well both at home in Detroit and in the storytelling mind of Nashville’s Rayland Baxter. Off of his second album, the upcoming Imaginary Man, Baxter’s new single “Mr. Rodriguez” pictures the two men on a stroll together, set to instrumentation that evokes a lush folk dreamland, anchored by plucky flickers of a beating-heart melody. (Listen to the exclusive premiere below.)

“I was imagining what it was like to walk through Detroit with Rodriguez,” Baxter tells Rolling Stone Country, “and if he and I were to have a story or two maybe he would hand off the torch to me and say, ‘Good luck, kid.’ And the rest of the song goes into detail about a couple in love working hard for each other, but eventually passing their wisdom on to the children they created.”

Related: Rodriguez: 10 Things You Don’t Know About the ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ Star

The follow-up to his 2012 debut on ATO, feathers & fishHooks, Imaginary Man is full of songs like “Mr. Rodriguez,” which align a whimsical narrative with often deceptively complex arrangements. It’s no surprise that Baxter is the son of Bucky Baxter, pedal-steel maestro to Bob Dylan, Ryan Adams and Steve Earle, as “Mr. Rodriguez” plays like someone schooled on the tools of the past. Baxter has a particular grasp for how even the most background of beats shape a song, and his work has the unique power of sounding unusual and familiar all at once.

“It’s a groovy glimpse into my imagination,” says Baxter about Imaginary Man, out August 14th. “‘Mr. Rodriguez’ was the first song we tracked on day one for the record. We were all imagining playing the song to a sea of people at Bonnaroo, and so we wanted to make it groovy and a bit up tempo and throw some spaghetti noodle guitar lines in there. . . for the hippies.”

Produced by Adam Landry and Eric Masse, Imaginary Man also features vocals from Jessie Baylin and Delta Spirit’s Matt Vasquez, and evokes everything from the plains of his native Tennessee and JJ Cale’s guitar lines to a more pop-composed Grateful Dead jam. You know, for the hippies.

Baxter is currently on the road, performing Saturday night at Porkside at Parkside in Birmingham, Alabama. Here are his tour dates:

July 22 – Durham, North Carolina, Motorco 
July 23 – Wilmington, North Carolina, Bourgie Nights 
July 24 & 25 – Floyd, Virginia, Floydfest
July 26 – Camden, New Jersey, XPoNential Music Festival 
July 27 – New York City, Rockwood Music Hall
July 28 – Boston , Atwoods Tavern
July 30 – Washington, D.C., the Hamilton 
July 31 – Pittsburgh, SPIRIT 
August 1 – Dearborn, Michigan, Fair Lane Folk Festival 
August 4 – Park City, Utah, Dear Valley Amphitheater*
August 6 – Boulder, Colorado, Triple A Radio Conference 
August 6 – Denver, Colorado, Lost Lake Lounge 
August 7 – Sante Fe, Lensic Performing Arts Center*

August 8 – Phoenix, Celebrity Theatre*

August 9 – Tucson, Arizona, Rialto Theatre*

August 11  – Los Angeles, the Hotel Cafe  

August 13 & 14 – Hollywood, California, Fonda Theatre*

August 15 – Oakland, California, Fox Theater*

September 26 – New Orleans, the Landing Festival 

October 2-4 – Austin, Austin City Limits Music Festival
January 6-11 – Miami, Belize City, Cozumel – Jam Cruise

*supporting Grace Potter 


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