Brad Armstrong “I Got No Place Remembers Me” (Cornelius Chapel Records, 2019)

‘I Got No Place Remembers Me’ is Brad Armstrong’s second solo album after 2016’s ‘Empire.’ Having previously been in 13 Ghosts who existed for twelve years on indie cred and not much else, he also joined Dexateens in 2008 (which also featured Matt Patton of Drive-by Truckers). ‘I Got No Place Remembers Me’ reflects both of those projects carrying an indie punk ID while wearing its southern-infused garage heart on its sleeve. Armstrong casts his line into the pool of Americana alt verity to deliver stories chipped from rock, hewn from Bald Cypress, dug from dirt, ploughed in the fields and infused with rock n roll poetry and grit.
The album starts with the near seven minute tale of ‘Brother Ford,’ a dark narration of a poor farmer turned preacher. This is Dylan’s ‘It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)’ strung out on Earle’s ‘Copperhead Road’, delivered on the Charlie Daniels Band devil-toting hickory stump. It’s a strong start and therein after the album settles down to punchier three to four minutes standards. ‘Falling Man’ contrasts the opener with its acoustic figures and whispering gallops. ‘Carry Your Head High’ offers a reflective positive in a fractured Frank Turner style with an energetic ending – imagine the Waterboys’ tumultuous ‘Rags’ with its tight spiralling climax.

‘Climb Any Mountain’ follows as a gentle folk ballad, “I would climb any mountain/I would sail any sea/ I would go anywhere if I thought you would be waiting for me.” It patrols familiar territory without pushing any boundaries. Maybe it doesn’t need to, but it’s a kind of leitmotif for the album; it’s good without being great. And that is quite frustrating because it feels like it could and should be great.

There is plenty to enjoy here and you want the light of greatness to shine on  and through these songs, but that light kind of turns out to be a willo-the-wisp. ’13 Anchors’ is a fuzzy, country rock shuffle that exudes a rough and ready hit ‘em between the eyes spirit and ‘Sunshine’ returns us to a more ethereal step – these are good tunes without ever summing to something that forces ‘I Got No Place Remembers Me’ to the top of the play list. Maybe the title is prophetic but it is definitely worth adding to a collection. ‘He Come Round’ is an electric workout that is to Americana what the Godfathers are to English Punk R&B. It tugs at something primitive with Armstrong sounding like a demented side-show salesman. ‘Bottle Flies’ contrasts musically but lyrically mines the same vein. The instruments sing a delicate tune; the voice recommends pouring, “That wicked drink away and down your gullet.” ‘Golden Keep’ is pure Springsteen era ‘Nebraska.’

‘I Got No Place Remembers Me’ has thirteen songs that range across the familiar – drawing in influences – and slowly reveals its nuances on repeated listens. It is definitely a long-term bond rather than a quick buck return. If you are looking for longevity built on solid foundations, it is a good place to invest your time.

Gritty and yet uplifting, Armstrong's visions reward repeat listenings

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