As for many writers and musicians the pandemic procured time, time to explore ideas, creativity and for many, to write and record new material while live performances were out of the question. For Graeme Armstrong, the outcome is this first solo project – an opportunity to show that amazing voice in all its glory. A mixture of his own song writing and some of his favourite traditional masterpiece – it explores themes of love and loss, fatherhood, friendship and family.
With the uplifting lilts and lulls of his Scottish accent often close to the surface, you could be forgiven if Christy Moore should come to mind, a voice deep and resonant, yet rich in emotion and all the elements.
Opening with ‘Isle of France’, a rousing, resonant rendition of a much loved traditional tune, he also covers ‘Fine Flowers in the Valley’, and puts his own slant on songs such as Karen Polwart’s ‘Waterlily’, Michael Marra’s ‘The Beast’, Dick Gaughan’s ‘Both Sides the Tweed’ and Sandy Wright’s ‘Beads and Feathers’.
In doing so, he pays homage and respect to songs and artists which have influenced and inspired his musical journey. Yet there’s a twist; he makes his own mark, makes them his own as they say, for example ‘My Son David’ uniquely features a full brass arrangement something which has probably never been attempted before and it works, masterfully.
In other covers, he teams up with a good friend Keir Long for hard-hitting synth and edgy electric guitar riffs, resulting in interpretations to be proud of. The production throughout is imaginative and inventive thanks to the production sills of Andrea Gobbi and the musicianship of Rachel Newton, Duncan Lyall, Michael Owens among others collaborating to bring Graeme’s intimate yet huge sound to full term.
Recorded both at home and in Gloworm Studios, this fine debut album also includes Graeme’s original work, ‘William’s Song’, a reflection on becoming a father; dealing with the loss of a close friend with the title track ‘You Are Free’, and the breakdown of family relationships on ‘Sit Alone’.
‘You Are Free’ is an in-depth snapshot of the artist in time, what makes him tick, what has troubled or affected him deeply; the highs and lows, the loves and longings. It’s a very personal, moving yet exciting and forward thinking piece of work.
Shaping old favourites with exciting instrumentation, or moulding and making his own mark with arrangements that can sooth or hit hard, ‘You Are Free’ to listen, free to enjoy and free to let this fine debut album into your hearts.