`Blues Bytes

October 1998

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James Armstrong
Dark Night
Hightone

James Armstrong - Dark NightJames Armstrong experienced a night of terror last year when he was stabbed by an intruder and his young son thrown from the balcony of their apartment. Fortunately, everyone survived the attack, with the main physical casualty being Armstrong's inability to play the guitar like before. But it's unlikely that the mental and emotional scars will heal as quickly. That's why the title cut to Dark Night is one of the most stirring, emotional songs I've heard in a while. Armstrong sings of the kind of terror he must have encountered that night --- "...bad boys shoot their guns, there goes another brother, there goes another son..." Yet through it all, this song also presents a ray of hope --- "it's a dark night, but I can still see the light..."

So how do you follow a song like "Dark Night?" The rest of the album is lighter, with the usual blues themes of lost love as on the catchy tune "Too Many Misses For Me." While his guitar playing isn't back to where it was before the accident, relying more on the accompaniment of bandmember Michael Ross, Armstrong's smooth voice sounds better than ever.

A fun original is "Slender Man Blues," Armstrong's plea to women that a smaller man shouldn't be overlooked. --- "...I want to do something good to you, baby, that none of those big men can..."

Armstrong also offers a loving tribute to his son on the funky "Lil' James." Again, very touching with plenty of emotion as the singer celebrates the life that was nearly taken away.

His originality in songwriting is displayed on "Bank Of Love," an uptempo blues shuffle about finding love sitting behind the teller's window --- "....no more ATM, customer service looks good..."

The best guitar work here, which I assume comes from Ross, is heard on the slow contemporary blues "Standing In Your Way."

Mr. Armstrong, we're glad that you and Lil' James are still with us. Thanks for pouring out your heart to us.

- Bill Mitchell

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