Sometimes the old songs are the best songs and that notion rings completely true with And Still I Rise, a hot set where Heritage Blues Orchestra covers songs originally performed by legendary blues masters. HBO has wisely chosen a set list of lesser-covered tunes, kicking off And Still I Rise with a horn enhanced version of Son House's "Clarksdale Moan" that, thanks to Junior Mack's vocal turn, completely lives up to its title. The band has several lead vocalists including Chaney Sims; her voice floats over a jazzy tribal rhythm on "C-Line Woman" while the others chant "C-Line" in the background. Leadbelly's "Go Down Hannah" and Muddy Waters' "Catfish Blues" are given the HBO treatment and Mack's composition "Chilly Jordan" shows that the band can get by nicely on their own material.
Blues at the Border
"Blues at the Border" is a commentary about how some types of "security" have gotten a little out of hand in the post- 9/11 world, especially for travelers, but otherwise Armstrong's subject matter here deals with favorite blues topics---women, cars and money (or the lack thereof.) Armstrong is a guitarist with a silky voice and on "Everything Good to Ya" his vocals are informed by the knowing inflection that Jimi Hendrix employed in much of his work. Overall Armstrong's music, a mix of blues, R&B and little snippets of funk fits into a category that fans of Robert Cray will be very familiar with, especially noticeable on "Baby Can You Hear Me?" Organist George Papageorge adds tasty counterpoint to Armstrong's guitar playing throughout and the pair whips up a great Creedence-tinged bayou blues on album standout and Armstrong original "Devil's Candy." It's been 11 years since Armstrong popped with a new album but clearly it was worth the wait.