MOJO / The Observer


Newcastle-born, Nottingham-raised songwriter bows at the shrine of analogue. White Stripes knob-twiddler, Liam Watson, helps out. Pop and R&B tunes as bouncy as Manfred Mann's 5-4-3-2-1; acoustic guitars which sound '60s enough to enchant Lee Mavers - such are the trappings of this Fabs, Kinks and Stones-imbued debut. Yet even as Armstrong's sound conjures Waterloo sunsets and Mary Quant, his uninhibited Lennon-with-a-hint-of-Dolenz pipes and potent, succinct songs move way beyond pastiche, Highlights include the skifflish Scratch The Surface and 'Cavernous' Down Home Girl, both of which feature simple, irresistible guitar hooks courtesy of Liam Watson. Elsewhere, as the kitschy, elastic-sounding Broken Mouth Blues drops to a Paul Jones-like harmonica solo, one's internal archive can't help but run frolicsome Ready Steady Go! footage. With the aforementioned Mavers and fellow La John Powers now working together again, a liisten to this spirited, always entertaining record could be inspirational.

James McNair