Got It Goin' On

James Armstrong

Hightone Records, 2000

http://www.jarmblues.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/18/2000

If you knew nothing about James Armstrong's past and you picked up his third disc Got It Goin' On, you'd swear you were listening to the second coming of Robert Cray. If you know anything about his past, you'd be amazed that Armstrong can play guitar as well as he does, let alone play the guitar at all.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Armstrong survived a home invasion and stabbing in 1997, which nearly left him unable to play the instrument on which he was quickly becoming a star on. After a "rehabilitation" album Dark Night (which saw Armstrong switch to slide guitar), one would be hard pressed to say that Armstrong's playing is at all lacking. Simply put, Got It Goin' On is a wonderful album.

As much as Armstrong is celebrating life, he doesn't turn his back on the tenets of the blues, as evidenced on tracks like "Love Will Make You Do Wrong," "Beat Up By Love" and "I'll Learn Some Time". What is intriguing is that Armstrong delivers these, as well as other cuts, with a mixture of down-home blues and whiskey-smooth soul in his vocals. I compared Armstrong to Robert Cray earlier in this review; such a comparison is meant as high praise for both men.

Sure, someone who has followed Armstrong since day one would point out that he still occasionally utilizes slide guitar; I would argue that the combination of slide and straight-out guitar playing enhances the music and gives it a grittier edge. And, frankly, I like it like this.

Tracks such as "2 Sides," "Mr. B's" and the title track all show that Armstrong is making leaps and bounds not only in his recovery, but also in his mastery of the blues. My only qualm? I'd like to hear him put a little more r&b-soul into some of the tracks - yes, similar to Robert Cray. I listen to Got It Goin' On, and I hear more than a little resemblence to Strong Persuader. Such a style works well for Armstrong.

Got It Goin' On is an album that will satisfy blues purists, afficionados of r&b-infused blues and fans of just plain ol' good guitar work alike, suggesting that Armstrong is poised for true superstardom. Here's hoping this album is the key that will open that door for him.

Rating: A-

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© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Hightone Records, and is used for informational purposes only.