Tom Armstrong

Songs That Make the Jukebox Play

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Tom Armstrong is part of the new school of old-school honky tonkers. Along with acts like Rex Hobart, the Derailers, and Mike Ireland, Armstrong takes listeners back to the days when giants such as Ray Price, Hank Williams, and Buck Owens ruled country music. A traditionalist in the best sense of the term, Armstrong has a purity of style that fits with this seemingly old-fashioned brand of honky tonk. He stocks his sophomore effort with a dozen originals that have all the grace and grit of the songs from country's golden era of the '50s and '60s. The dandy leadoff track, "Can't Stand to Think," would have been a fine follow-up to "Heartaches By the Number" for Price. The rousing Bakersfield-style "A Good Night Tonight" would fit nicely alongside a Wynn Stewart or Buck Owens number, while "Blues & Dues" could have shown up in a Hank Williams set. Standing out as Armstrong's most impressive originals, however, are the honky tonk waltz "Promises Promises" and the classic "tears in your beer" tune "I'll Match You." As with any good honky tonker, Armstrong's stock in trade are the tales of heartache, but he nicely varies the sound by slipping in more uptempo tunes like "You Used to Live It Up" alongside such sad songs of woe as "Brand New Memories" and "Give Up on Me." He also receives strong support from his backing band, the Jukebox Cowboys. In particular, fiddler Doug Adams and steel guitar man David Phillips team up to enliven several tracks, including the record's sole cover, Frank Miller Jr.'s mischievous "No Big Thing to Me." While Armstrong may not have the suave moves that brought Dwight Yoakam commercial success, he amply demonstrates his love and understanding of the old-school honky tonk sound and the talent to continue its traditions.

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