James Armstrong review…October 21, 2017….

JAMES ARMSTRONG

BLUES BEEN GOOD TO ME

CATFOOD RECORDS   CFR -025

BLUES BEEN GOOD TO ME–SECOND TIME AROUND–ADDICTED TO LOVE–EARLY GRAVE–OLD MAN IN THE MORNING (YOUNG MAN AT NIGHT)–CHANGE IN THE WEATHER–HOW SWEET IT IS TO BE LOVED BY YOU–AIN’T ANOTHER LOVE SONG–SLEEPING WITH A STRANGER–SHOT GUN WEDDING

For his latest set for Catfood Records, James Armstrong surrounded himself with a group of backing musicians that he’d played with in his live shows, giving him a good “comfort zone.”  This formula proved to be a real winner with the ten cuts that make up “Blues Been Good To Me.”  Recorded at Sawhorse Studio in St. Louis and Jim Gaines’ Bessie Blue Studio here in Tennessee, James is on vocals and guitar, with Matt Murdick on keys and vocals, Johnny McGhee on rhythm guitar, Darryl Wright on bass, and Andrew Blaze Thomas on drums.

The material consists of eight of James’ originals and two stellar covers.  The set starts with James’ autobiography of sorts, the tale of a world traveler fueled by the music he loves, “Blues Been Good To Me.”  He name-checks Robert Johnson, Elvis, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, and several others who all fell victim to that “Early Grave.”  Co-producer, labelmate, and living legend Johnny Rawls adds backing vocals here, along with Mary Jo Curry on this poignant tale of life in the fast lane.  James closes the set with a good, old-fashioned “murder ballad,” if you will.  A “Shotgun Wedding, doomed from the start,” finds the young groom with the ever-roving eye meeting a most tragic ending.

Our favorites were the two covers, and here’s why.  James Armstrong has a unique way with songs most of us are familiar with.  He changes the tempos, time signatures, and basically turns ’em inside-out, making almost a brand-new song.  Check out his re-worked version  of “Take It To The Limit” from his 2014 album, “Guitar Angels,” and compare it to his versions herein of  Robert Palmer’s “Addicted To Love,” and the Motown classic, “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You,” this one featuring James on slide guitar, heretofore unheard on this song!

That’s the cool thing about James Armstrong.  He’s always good for some mighty fine guitar-driven blues with a few nice surprises along the way.  We suppose that’s one of the  many reasons he says “Blues Been Good To Me!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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