|Everything||by Caren Armstrong|
Caren's work can be defined by the old adage, "I arm yourself with impeccable technique and throw yourself on the mercy of inspiration". The mercurial songbird has taken twelve original songs plus one choice cover and created a vibrant sonic palette of diverse moods and emotions. Everything mixes robust production numbers featuring members of the Americana band Huston Jones with more sparsely arranged songs supported be acclaimed musicians such as Lloyd Maines, Darol Anger, Joe Craven, and Edo Castro. Her fourth CD (all available on Wildplum) is not only a brilliant example of Caren's skills as a songwriter and musician, but also as a collaborator.
Her distinctive slide and rhythm guitar, combined with the Huston Jones boys, (Peter Tucker, drums; Chris Kee, bass; Glenn Houston, lead guitar; and Henry Salvia, keyboards), provides a strong yet supple spine for a collection of songs that both move and groove. Select soloists flesh out these funky bones:
Lloyd Maines' Dobro weaves magic throughout "Ode to Billy Joe", Darol Anger's fiddle uplifts the joyful "HeartStrings" and laments "If That is Heaven". Joe Craven appears on several tunes, perhaps most distinctively as the Human Beatbox on the cautionary "All the Help". Robert Powell brings his signature textural touch, playing electric and steel guitar, and, on "Just Another Song", electric "ebo-ized" sitar. Glenn Houston's lead guitar sizzles on the anthemic road song, "Ride" and serves up a helping of sass on "That is Why You Like Me". Shirley Muramoto's hauntingly beautiful koto illuminates "Origami", a song about transformation and possibility. Of course, throughout the CD, Caren's fluent guitar playing and soaring vocals provide the heart and soul of Everything. As always, she is dangerously honest, wickedly funny and disarmingly vulnerable.