Thursday, December 22, 2011

CD Review: “Blues At The Border” by James Armstrong


James Armstrong

Blues At The Border

‘The Ambassador Of The Blues’

He’s got a voice that drips soul. He’s got a raunchy slide guitar that  can make a old man swivel his hips. He’s got gritty delivery that’ll rock your socks and he’s got Blues At The Border. His first album in eleven years happened when he teamed up with bassist extraordinaire and producer par excellence Bob Trenchard and Catfood Records.

The result is one of the nicest recorded pieces of Blues/R&B you’ll hear this year. With two WC Handy Awards nominations under his belt and years of working with artists such as Albert Collins, Keb Mo', Coco Montoya, Roy Brown,Joe Louis Walker, Chaka Khan, Ricky Lee Jones, Peter Tork, Jan & Dean, Mitch Mitchell and Tommy Castro, James can bring it with the best. James skill has not escaped the notice of filmmaker either. Several of his songs have been chosen for movie soundtracks. “Bank of Love” was used in Hear No Evil, with Martin Sheen and Marlie Matlin. “Two Sides to Every Story” is featured in Speechles with Micheal Keaton and Geena Davis also in The Florentine with Jeremy Davies and Luke Perry.

Jposter_1250953393What Armstrong has managed to put together here is a collection of 21st century blues, proving that the genre is evolving, and reports of its demise are highly exaggerated. He’ll alternately seduce you, energize you and make you smile with his music. From the opening tune, “Everything Good To Ya”, his sense of humor and his unfailing instinct as a musician are apparent. Soaked in the ‘feeling’ of the great rock/blues albums of the mid ‘60s, and with tasty organ work (George Papageorge) the song is a warning about life in the new century. A good deal of the album deals with ‘modern’ problems.

Witness the title track, Blues At The Border which gives a realistic picture of travel after 9/11 as well as a tongue in cheek account of maintaining an international love life. The tune packs some of the tastiest slide guitar work, you’ll be finding your self “sliding over” a few borders your own self. The slide gets fiery and fierce, but always stays very articulate as is his soulful voice. Here’s a sample from James’ 1995 release.

Sleeping With A Stranger

This album is filled with great tunes and contemporary blues that manages to still stay authentic. “High Maintenance Woman” is another favorite showing off more of that greasy groove that has made James a favorite live performer for a long time now and its more evidence of that sense of humor . With a little help by Maddona Hamel, he lays out just how a high maintenance woman can give a man “more troubles than Robert Johnson” and have her “mood swings like Sinatra” but be well worth the effort. James_Armstrong_054a_1289181695

“Young Man with the Blues” is his most autobiographical song to date. It pays tribute to James’ father, a musician himself - Born in Los Angeles, Armstrong’s mother was a blues singer and his father played jazz guitar - who gave James the gift of music, a love of the road and, despite the absence of a mother, a happy childhood. About love and loss, “Young Man with the Blues” is a sad but, not self-pitying song.

“Devil’s Candy” is another where the guitar gets raunchy an slinks its way through the temptations of touring. A medium/slow driving rhythm, backed by a steady beat that leaves all the ‘flirting’ to James and his ax, the “Devil’s Candy” isn’t the only one James shows a good time.

“Devil’s candy”

On tour right now, James is famous for his live shows as he blends virtuosity on the guitar with a showman’s report with an audience. If you have a chance to catch this road warrior and consummate performer, don’t pass it up.

DATE         DAY        CITY                 VENUE & WEBSITE

12-08-11 Thursday   Chicago, IL         Kingston Mines

12-09-11  Friday      Quincy, IL           Club Tavern

12-10-11  Saturday   Betendorf, IA      Muddy Waters

12-23-11   Friday      St. Paul, MN       Wilebski's Blues Saloon

01-07-12   Saturday  Marshall, MI       Franke Center

01-27-12   Thursday  Atlanta, GA       Blind Willies

01-28-12   Friday     Tallahassee, FL   Bradford Blues

01-29-12   Saturday  Montgomery, AL Capital Oyster Bar

02-02-12   Thursday   New York, NY   Terra Blues

02-04-12   Friday      New Hampshire  Elks Lodge

02-06-12   Saturday   Rockland, ME    Timeout Pub

02-09-12   Friday       Minneapolis, MN Famous Dave's

02-11-12   Saturday   Fargo, ND          Fargo Winter Blues Festival

And be sure to check James’ Website for more news and tour dates.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

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