Nick Bollinger discusses a twanging debut by Wellington guitar-slinger Chris Armour
If you’re looking for a local guitarist to dazzle you today, you could do worse than to check out this guy.
Chris Armour is a Wellington-based picker who has been almost solely responsible for the capital meeting its annual twang quota these past few years. If he’s been something of a regional secret, the release of his first album is an opportunity to hear him wherever you are.
Armour’s instrument of choice is a Telecaster, hence the title of his album, Tele-Porter. What is so distinctive about the Telecaster? Someone once described the tone of a Tele as sounding like ‘a pissed off banjo’. It’s the instrument favoured by such guitarists as Steve Cropper and the late Danny Gatton, both of whom Armour seems to be slyly tipping his hat to at different times in this set. It’s a bright, snappy sound, and it’s perfect for the kind of bluesy, voice-like phrasing he uses in tunes like these.
If Armour doesn’t exactly break any new ground, he has terrific skills and impeccable taste. And the limitations he has set himself for this album are ultimately its strength. He clings closely to the blues, with a strong preference for shuffles. Yet rather than resulting in samey-ness he shows what fine variations a good guitarist can make, even within a restricted palette; from the biting tones of the title track to the hummier, jazzier sound he uses for the tune he calls 'One For T1'.
It helps that Armour has enlisted an excellent bunch of players to support him. Central to the swing is Richard Te One (that'll be the 'T1' of the previously mentioned track) whose drumming locks with Steve Moodie’s double bass to give Armour a deep rhythmic bed to work on. But there are also nice touches from pianist Dale Jellyman and - especially - saxophonist Andrew Clouston, whose baritone burrs like a warm engine through tracks like these.
Chris Armour originally intended to release Tele-Porter solely as a download, and it’s available on Bandcamp. But he’s now been persuaded to do a physical CD as well, which he’ll be launching in a couple of weeks. Tele-Porter might be too specialised for some tastes, but if you’re anything like me, forty minutes of hot swinging Telecaster instrumentals will be exactly what you are looking for – you just didn’t know it until you heard this.
Tele-Porter is available on Bandcamp