Graeme Armstrong – You Are Free: Album Review

Talisk guitar man Graeme Armstrong on a solo venture that shows another side to the day job.

Release Date: Available now

Label: Graeme Armstrong Records

Format: CD / digital

You Are Free. Is Graeme Armstrong trying to tell us something? His role in Talisk, in providing oft frantic guitar accompaniment to the whirlwind that is Mohsen Amini at centre stage, might fall under the radar. You Are Free sees him take his own place in the spotlight. An album that carries a snapshot of not just being free to plow his own musical furrow but as a record, a statement of where Graeme Armstrong is right now.

He’s backed by an impressive cast. Rachel Newton, Duncan Lyall and Mattie Foulds may be the most familiar names on the teamsheet but the partnership with Keir Long is the most significant one for the synth arrangements which are a strong feature of the material on You Are Free.

Taking an initial look at what’s on offer, it’s intriguing to hear what he’s done with Sandy Wright’s Beads And Feathers and if he’s gotten close to Kris Drever’s fine reading. Intriguing it is too, to hear how he deals with the traditional My Son David, again done to perfection by June Tabor & Oysterband. For the former landmark, the Armstrong arrangements are much more relaxed while the latter is decorated with some sad brass lines and lush textures from the synths on the musical pallet and the sort of pinging tenor guitar that Damien O’Kane often employs. Check out too its more experimental approach that Lau have made their own, through a use of electronics and rhythms and a vocal mantra that see Sit Alone create a contemporary and sadly short-lived experimental ambience

Add songs by Karine Polwart, Michael Marra and Dick Gaughan and You Are Free is indeed a mouthwatering prospect. You can’t say Graeme hasn’t been ambitious yet it’s with the subtlety that he brings in his own quiet way to Talisk. His own pieces are discreetly slipped into the sequence with a humility that denies their strength and quality. The title track ebbs and flows in the beautiful sentiment of losing a friend – a highlight with the simple chorus and mantra of the bridge; the tinge of melancholy carried into William’s Song, where he addresses the sentiments at becoming a father and the creation of new life.

The Polwart/Marra/Gaughan trio of covers acknowledge their inspiration and influence and come inwhat feels like a holy trinity. You can understand the choice of Waterlily, a perfect selection for the reflective and wistful theme of the album. And is that Duncan Lyall providing the sparse piano alongside Michael Owers’ brass spirit on The Beast that combines on a drifting coda? Lovely stuff, especially when added to the celestial textures of Both Sides The Tweed and the covers are the ideal counter to the original Armstrong pieces.

Almost inevitably, the Talisk signatures are hard to deny and not difficult to spot in the way the dynamics, the arrangements and tempos kick in with bubbling builds and changes of pace often carried by the synth lines. Where You Are Free takes a different road, lies in the expansive and spacious arrangements and sensitive production that delivers a widescreen ambience. Great to see and hear what’s on the other side of Graeme Armstrong.

Here’s Isle Of France from the album:

Graeme Armstrong online: Website / Facebook / Instagram / Youtube / Soundcloud

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