Blues Been Good to Me

On Blues Been Good to Me, his sixth album since his 1995 debut, Sleeping With a Stranger, James Armstrong revisits the title track of that CD, which describes his waking up and finding a note on his suddenly ex-girlfriend’s pillow detailing the events that led to the break-up (“We’re lying so close but are so far apart”). Many of the 10 tracks (eight of them originals) are set to a rhythmic groove and accompanied throughout by a horn section and backup vocalists, the 60-year-old guitarist sings his way through a catalogue of love problems. After a brief guitar intro reprising the “Secret Agent Man” theme, “Second Time Around” limns a portrait of two previously burned people nervously edging toward each other. And after a mournful account of having his heart broken on “Change in the Weather,” a real treat—and welcome change of pace—is his rendition of the Marvin Gaye hit, “How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by You,” featuring his spot-on slide guitar. Armstrong’s bleak “Shot Gun Wedding” closes this vital, but short (38-minute) recording.