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Guitar Angels

James Armstrong

Catfood Records 2013

Review by David Bowling

 

James Armstrong has been a blues player all of his life. He formed his first band while in the 7th grade and was touring the country by the age of 17. A terrible injury to his left arm and hand in 1996 derailed his career but through rehabilitation and the support of such blues guitarists as Coco Montoya and Joe Louis Walker, he is now able to take his place as one of the better blues musicians working today. The title of his new albums, Guitar Angels, is dedicated to the people who helped him recover from his injury.

Whether on electric or slide guitar, he is an extraordinary blues musician. He is able to produce a clarity of sound that few guitarists are capable of producing. His voice is unique among blues artists as it is smooth and silky. It has a wonderful soulful quality that would have fit in with the Motown sound of the 1960s.

While he records as a solo artist, he surrounds himself with various musicians and instruments, including keyboards, brass, and strings in places that give his music a full band sound.  He is also able to write a tune as 9 of the 11 tracks are original compositions.

He can be both playful and serious. Tracks such as “Grandma’s Got A New Friend,” “Bank Of Love,” and “Saturday Night Women” contain catchy melodies and double entendre lyrics. The guitar solos are succinct and well-placed. It is music that not only entertains but also makes you smile. On the other hand, tracks such as “Healing Time” and “Guitar Angels” are both well-constructed and heartfelt.

One of the two covers is the Eagles classic “Take It To The Limit.” Armstrong transforms it into a smoky blues tune.

Armstrong is a modern electric blues player who is smoother than many of his contemporaries. Nevertheless, he produces a sound that is firmly rooted in the blues. Guitar Angels is well-worth a listen for any fan of the blues.

 

Rating: ***1/2

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