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Tom Armstrong

Songs That Make the Jukebox Play – 2002 (Carswell)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

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CDs by Tom Armstrong

There are country traditionalists, and then there are country traditionalists; artists for whom the last 40 years of country music never happened - no Garth, no Reba, no Waylon. Hell,, no Merle, for that matter.

Step into Tom Armstrong's world, where it's no later than 1962, the Ray Price shuffle still represents the zenith of country music's evolution, and "irony" is just an awkward comparison to a ferrous element. And only occasionally does one hear a hint of Bakersfield creeping in on numbers like "First One to Get There," which brings tomind Wynn Stewart covering Harlan Howard.

In short, think of Armstrong as the anti-Robbie Fulks; similar in that they're both skilled and knowledgeable singer/songwriters with strong tenors working in a retro style for a dedicated, but limited audience. But where Fulks wields irony and crankiness like a scalpel, Armstrong plays it straight right down the line - no novelty songs, no slams at Nashville and no postmodernism.

A fine followup to last year's debut, "Tom Armstrong Sings Heart Songs," and one which bodes well for his future popularity with fans of traditional country music.