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Louie Bluie

Howard Armstrong

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Album Review

As easy as it is to characterize Howard Armstrong as the last link in the once great African-American string band tradition, he really had the kind of personality and talent that transcended simple genre labels. A visual artist as well as a consummate musician (he is rumored to have been able to play 22 different types of instruments), his grasp of musical styles was panoramic, ranging from blues, jazz, country, and pop to all manner of jigs, reels, waltzes, and spirituals, and he could sing and entertain in four languages, including German, Polish, and Italian as well as English. Although he tended to concentrate on fiddle and mandolin in his later years, no musical style or instrument was ever safely out of reach of Armstrong's sweeping vision. This marvelous disc was originally released in 1995 (it won a W.C. Handy Award that year) and it stands as Armstrong's only solo project (although he is helped here on bass by his son, Ralphe Armstrong, a veteran of stints with John McLaughlin and Jean-Luc Ponty, and the swing-style guitar of Ray Kamalay). Armstrong was 86 years old when these sessions were recorded, but there is no sign of declining skills as he tackles spirituals ("Wading Through Deep Water," "When He Calls Me I Will Answer"), traditional folk pieces (a wonderfully swinging "John Henry"), classic jazz ("St. Louis Blues," which takes on a gypsy swagger with Armstrong's ragged mandolin fills), and even a pair of Gershwin compositions ("Oh, Lady Be Good," "Summertime"). Armstrong's version of "Summertime" is particularly stunning, his moaning and swooping fiddle lines highlighting perfectly his casual (but careful) vocal. In the end, Armstrong is really more street jazz than he is blues, and this disc hints at the full range of his musical possibilities. Taken with the Arhoolie collection that goes by the same title, Louie Bluie, a complete portrait of this charming and versatile musician begins to emerge.

Customer Reviews

Hotness

Louie blouie, this blue-suit release, is by far his best work, this man could play any instrument, hell he even did the cover art, and it is daaaaaamnnnn awesome so I suggest you get yourself a copy and one for your girlfriend.... my reccommendation is the summertime rendition at the end of the album

Biography

Born: March 4, 1909 in Dayton, TN

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Country bluesman Howard Armstrong was born March 4, 1909 in Dayton, TN; one of 11 children. As a youngster he fashioned his first fiddle out of a goods box strung with horsehair. Honing his musical skills in his family band, he began performing as a teen alongside Knoxville performers Ted Bogan and Carl Martin in groups like the Tennessee Chocolate Drops and the Four Aces. Armstrong's groups were exceptions to the rule of the era which dictated that black performers perform only material from the...
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Louie Bluie, Howard Armstrong
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