Missy Armstrong first came to the attention of the bluegrass world a few years back as the powerful lead vocalist behind several radio hits from Michigan-based band, Detour. Though she had taken some time off from performing recently, Armstrong recorded and released several singles for Melton & Miller Music last year that found a lot of love at radio. Those singles then led to an EP, My Remedy, released from Melton & Miller in August. Six well-written songs showcase Armstrong’s clear voice, set to a background of smooth contemporary grass.
Beth Husband and Milan Miller are the writers behind the majority of the album. The opening track, Creeping Round My Cabin, is one of the more traditional-sounding songs here, with strong banjo and mandolin from Terry Baucom and Seth Taylor, respectively. The number is a toe-tapper of a kiss-off song, with Armstrong telling a no-good man goodbye in no uncertain terms: “I used to be your fool, but I won’t be anymore.” Ain’t Going Down to the River has a similar vibe but a neat twist – the good-looking, evil-hearted man in the song is the infamous “Willie,” who has led so many poor girls to their deaths on the banks of the rivers from Knoxville to Ohio. It’s quite a cheerful-sounding song to ostensibly be about a serial killer (“He confessed every time but his daddy’s money set him free, and from everything I’ve heard he sounds a lot like you to me.”), but we all love a good murderer in bluegrass. It’s a cleverly-written number with a catchy, singable hook.
Also enjoyable is the atmospheric, country-tinged Broke Down in Arkansas, penned by Husband and Miller along with Cindy Baucom. Taylor’s mandolin and banjo from Noam Pikelny create a worried, weary sound as Armstrong’s narrator realizes that burning all her bridges as she left home probably wasn’t the best choice now that she’s “stranded on the shoulder by this highway headed west, wishing I had listened to the ones who knew me best.”
People Passing By is a thoughtful number that includes a co-writing credit for Armstrong. The softly rolling song ponders the unknowable nature of others’ worries and problems, and encourages listeners to “show a little grace” to the people in their lives. Cherished images of a childhood home dot the verses of My Remedy, figuratively serving as a cure for the weariness brought on by daily life. The gentle melody and stripped-down sound here fits Armstrong’s vocal style well. I Hear You Baby, from the pen of Mark Winchester, brings a brighter note to the EP, with a cheerful, bouncy melody and reassurances from one half of a couple to the other that even when no one else is listening, they are.
After listening to all six songs here, I felt a bit cheated. Where were the rest? Armstrong is an excellent singer and can easily switch back and forth from a grassier style to a softer, more country or folk-influenced sound. I’m ready for a full solo album from Armstrong, and after listening to this EP, I’m sure you will be, too.
For more information on Missy Armstrong and her new EP, visit Melton & Miller Music online.