‘Back and Forth’ Luke Armstrong - folk heritage, rapid fingerpicking, warmly inviting voice(June 03, 2015)
There’s an evident cultural richness to Luke Armstrong's music, driven by traditional English folk roots and augmented by wider folk influences and styles. His debut album, ‘Back and Forth’, is a fine, carefully crafted collection of ten self-penned songs built on a folk heritage combined with rapid fingerpicking, distinct flamenco techniques and open tunings. Those elements form the foundations but the profound fascination for this album comes through Armstrong’s individual yet warmly inviting voice.
To pin a style on his work is constricting, and his music is anything but that. It is open and expansive, continually soaring with lyrics and melodies that express precisely what the artist intends. The description ‘folk blues’ is used by Armstrong, which is reasonable but even that places brackets where none need to exist. The songs move from intensely personal, yet still with a subtle touch, to more widely observant, again with a gift for sensitive scrutiny. And with a voice that becomes ever more involving and absorbing. A delicately struck guitar leads in the opener ‘Reflections’, which slides perfectly into the contemporary tradition of ‘WeyHill Fair’ before the beautiful ‘Far From Home’ and perfectly poised emphasis of ‘Things Have Changed’ ensure you’re riveted by this music. A relaxed blues-tinged (there you go) disposition surrounds ‘The Right Words’, while ‘Beneath The City Clock’ builds simple story elements into its recognisable narrative and for a piercingly sharp human study there’s little need to go further than ‘A Short Note’.
Playing on alongside Luke Armstrong on ‘Back and Forth’ are Josetxo Oureta (5-string fretless bass) Landon Cotham (percussion, backing vocals) Marie Lallier (piano, melodica, backing vocals) Martijn Baart and Nekane Galpasoro (backing vocals).
Luke Armstrong lives at Leize Gorria in the powerfully individual, resilient and utterly magnificent Basque Country. The only observation to make is the loss of this talent to these shores is emphatically the Basque Country’s gain. Find him here: www.lukearmstrongmusic.com
Review: Tim Carroll