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New music from James Armstrong, Burnt Taters and Gov't Mule

CD Reviews

James Armstrong "Dark Night"Burnt Taters, "Vox Box"Gov't Mule, "Live ... With a Little Help From Our Friends"Play These Songs"UFO Attack""Trippin' Over You""New Jazz Fiddle"

Real Audio Required -->James Armstrong "Dark Night" (Hightone Records) — Blues man James Armstrong's "Dark Night" CD has been out for a while but the timeless nature of the music and the grim circumstances surrounding the effort certainly warrant whatever attention it attracts. Armstrong's easy and honest vocals and the band's deep guitar-bass-Hammond B-3 groove are enough to convince a listener that this West Coast blues player is a solid modern blues stylist. But when considered as a product that followed a brutal personal tragedy, "Dark Night" is a minor musical miracle. While struggling to make his niche in the blues scene a couple of years back, Armstrong was attacked in his own apartment and stabbed repeatedly by a drug-crazed stranger who also threw Armstrong's 2-year-old son out a window. Somehow father and son survived although the son's long-term condition is still uncertain. Eventually, Armstrong regained enough mental and physical strength to record this troubled yet hope-filled collection of songs. "Dark Night" speaks of an imperfect society but Armstrong somehow emerged from his suffering, preferring to put the past behind him and to search for some light in the darkness of a world gone mad. — Ames Arnold

Play These Songs"Via Chicago""A Shot In The Arm""Nothing'server gonastandinmyway(again)"

Real Audio Required -->Burnt Taters, "Vox Box" (Planetary Records) — I guess I'm coming from some other world but I don't get the buzz about the Burnt Taters CD "Vox Box." I've seen them live a few times and enjoyed the harmonies and the stripped-down approach. But the disc comes across to me as a lot of vocal drama over very little. Yes, the harmonies are good and the melodies take some nice twists and turns. I love the fresh take on the "One After 909" cover and the Buddy Hollyish tune "Try a Little Harder" works for me. Many of the songs quickly caught my ear but all too often I found myself losing interest due mainly to the overly stylized approach. Also, some of these tunes go on too long.

These guys are talented; I hope they go out and conquer the musical world and that this initial release is a stepping stone to great things. Heck, buy one and make up your own mind. Support your local musicians. But "Vox Box" presses too hard for my taste. — Ames Arnold

Play These Songs"Song For Renee (Gate's Tune)""When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again""Take Me Back To Tulsa"

Real Audio Required -->Gov't Mule, "Live ... With a Little Help From Our Friends" (Capricorn Records) — Fueled by Matt Abts powerful drumming, Gov't Mule's loud, gritty Southern rock shines on its latest live double-disc release. Former Allman Brothers Band members Warren Haynes (guitars/vocals) and Allen Woody (bass) amicably left the band in 1997 to concentrate on their side project, Gov't Mule.

While the trio's first release "Dose" features a bit more in-your-face guitar work, "Live" reflects the band's powerful stage presence and improvisational ingenuity. Recorded during a New Year's Eve show at the Roxy Theater in Atlanta, the album captures two-and-a-half hours of raw power. Check them out yourself this Wednesday, April 28 at Alley Katz.

A number of guest performers add spice to the album including Bernie Worrell (Parliament Funkadelic) and Chuck Leavell (Rolling Stones, ABB). And Gov't Mule's 30-minute electronically spacey cover of John Coltrane's "Afro-Blue" features sensational sax work by Randall Bramblett (Traffic). — Carrie Nieman

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