SONGS THAT MAKE THE JUKEBOX PLAY Tom Armstrong
Oh my, a real live honky tonk hero. Armstrong is a barroom belter, a full-throated crooner in the tradition of Webb Pierce and Ray Price. It's very curious, considering he came from a background that included Alternative, punk, and progressive jazz music, on his way to becoming one of The New Voices in Country & Western Music. (They ought to bring that back as a category, to distinguish it from Country. If anybody can, this cat just might.)
This recent CD and Tom Armstrong Sings Heart Songs (with a hilariously dour cover that was a respectful takeoff on Ray Price's classic debut) have been receiving strong reviews (several writers picked Heart Songs as the album of the year!), especially across the pond, where traditional country music is remembered and revered.
It is uncanny how much the spirit of west coast country of the 50s and 60s rings true in these songs. Tom is so inside this genre that his original repertoire sounds like Bakersfield classics. Not only that, but he's got a band out there in San Francisco that have the sound right and do his catalog justice. They are: Mike Wolf on guitar, David Phillips on steel, Rob Douglas on bass, Les James on drums, and a fine fiddle player I remember from my Bay Area days, Doug Adams.
Be sure to check out the clips of Tom Armstrong's California baritone on the Listen page. Like me, you may hear and revel in the strains of what originally turned you on about Country music. Me, I'm gonna solicit a few more copies from the artist and spread them out judiciously around Music City, see if I can perk up a few ears. Back in the days when Country was Country, my brother JB gave me a bit of songwriting advice: "If you can't drink to it, it's not Country." You can definitely drink to this. Cheers! Oh, and you can buy it, here. FG
[Tom was one of the participants in Clothesline Revival. You'll find our interview with him in the Clothesline piece in the archives.]