Saturday, April 14, 2012

James Armstrong Survived A Very Dark Night

James Armstrong’s recovery from the terrible stabbing he suffered at the hands of a deranged homeless person a couple years ago is one of the most heartening stories in the blues, and the release of his second Hightone album, Dark Night, is a cause for celebration. Bruce Bromberg is one of the producers, so it may not be completely surprising that some may find this recording suggestive of Bromberg’s recordings by Robert Cray and Joe Louis Walker.

Armstrong stands on his own with his gritty, slightly laconic delivery who can deal with the urban violence he personally experienced, yet can still see the light. His optimism is most obvious on the joy he celebrates on his Lil’ James, about his young son. He is as forthright singing about a relationship falling apart because of misunderstandings, miscommunications, mistakes and mistrust on Doug MacLeod’s Too Many Misses For Me, as on Slender Man Blues where he warrants that wants to do something for the ladies that the big boys can’t. Joe Louis Walker adds guitar to Trouble on the Home Front, a lazy shuffle about the “worse type of trouble to have,” while Doug MacLeod is present of Armstrong’s amusing shuffle, Bank of Love, with some imaginative use of language.

Like practically all of Bruce Bromberg’s productions, these performances come across as well rehearsed and cleanly executed. Yet like Cray and Walker, Armstrong invests plenty of soul into his performances, and his own guitar solos are solidly crafted.

I recently posted here (January 1, 2012) on Armstrong’s new album, Blues at the Border. The present review appeared originally in the October 1998 DC Blues Calendar as well as the October 1998 Jazz and Blues Report (Issue 235). Here is James performing at the 2009 Pocono Blues Festival and I was at this show.

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