Armstrong: Under Blue Skies Expanded Edition

The Beautiful Music / Country Mile Records have released Armstrong’s debut album “Under Blue Skies” in an expanded edition, which includes the original album plus six bonus tracks. You can learn more about Armstrong at this link, and purchase “Under Blue Skies” in the Beautiful Music online store. You can also follow Armstrong on Twitter and stream the album on Spotify.

Singer / songwriter Julian Pitt describes the album as “a kind of journey for the listener. In the same kind of way that a good movie travels with its ups and downs.” That’s a very apt description of the music on “Under Blue Skies.” The opening moments of “Love Hate Passion And War” delivered echoes of Dream Academy and “Life In A Northern Town,” while the overall experience is reminiscent of Brian Wilson’s introspective compositions from the “Pet Sounds” era. I’ve also seen Armstrong’s music described as “Baroque Pop”…a fusion of rock & orchestral arrangements with a melancholic tone…and that is certainly a key element in the overall scheme of things.

Primarily, it’s pensive and tuneful music that rides a full range of emotional textures and melodic moods. A perfect touchstone is Brian Wilson’s “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times”…it’s an outsider looking in, but make no mistake, he’d prefer to be “in,” and the real world isn’t always supportive of that desire. “Under Blue Skies” is fragile, naked, honest music, matched with bright, sparkling melodies and unwavering optimism. Even the album’s title reflects its underlying irony…a “blue sky” is the primary metaphor with a day filled with hope and endless possibility. The nexus of that metaphor is where dreams meet reality. Some dreams are realized, some dreams are broken, and it all adds up to “real life.” “Under Blue Skies” is the result of one man looking at the whole picture with honesty, humility, and, yes…hope.

The music on this album is unmistakably passionate and genuine. One of the bonus tracks, “On A Clear Night You Can Stay Together,” is one of the most endearing songs here. A playful reference to Burton Lane and Alan Lerner’s standard, “On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever),” it also carries over to the core of the musical’s character, Daisy Gamble, a “quirky” character who sees herself as an unremarkable person and has low self-esteem” (reference: Wikipedia). It’s a very telling tip of the hat, a declaration of allegiance to and empathy with the Brian Wilson persona described above.

“Under Blue Skies” is an album about faith in the unseen, faith in something better, the desire to find sufficient joy today in order to make it to tomorrow. If nothing else, times in 2019 can be described as “turbulent,” and no matter what is going on inside you or around you, a better tomorrow always beckons. This album provides a soundtrack for that journey.