What sustains rock and roll? It sure as hell isn’t record companies, promoters, or the band of thieves posing as consumer servants called iTunes. Radio does it part, but what it really boils down to is local musicians who get bitten by the bug at an early age, have no desire to take the cure, and keep cranking it out for the townies. In Western Massachusetts, Jim Armenti is among the rock and roll warrior caste. He’s in numerous bands, teaches music at local music stores, hires himself out as rock and roll “coach,” and though you may not know his name, he’s penned songs for those you probably do know: Pam Tillis, Dar Williams, and Cry, Cry, Cry to name a few. Every now and then he does some solo gigs and The Herd is his second solo recording (though it enlists the help of old sidekicks such as Ray Mason.)
Also found on Armenti’s resume is a twenty-three-year teaching music at the local prison, and many of The Herd’s eleven tracks are based on the reflections, stories, and conversations of inmates. Like that material, much of what Armenti plays is raw and, to those accustomed to slick studio production, unpolished. To be sure, there’s a lot of mileage on Armenti’s voice and it can now be best described as “earnest.” But back to the sound and vibe of the album. If you find this recording a bit on the ragged side, it’s probably because you’ve become too accustomed to “American Idol”-like hype. Another thing that has sustained rock and roll through the decades has been its willingness to point a middle digit at ideals of homogeneity and conformity. Listen hard to Armenti’s guitar and you’ll waltz through some styles once (and now) thought scandalous among many: rockabilly, acid rock, reggae, R & B….
Is this a breakthrough recording? Nope; Armenti has no desire to join the washed-and-scrubbed crowd. Is it “art?” Probably not. Is it a piece of local rock and roll that reminds us of rock’s branch and roots? Now you’re talking.
Here's one of Jim's online guitar lessons.