Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Dennis and Brenda Kippa

On short notice Saturday afternoon, we were advised that Ann Armstrong
would be performing at The Forge in Ben Wheeler in a few hours.

As I searched my memory bank, I couldn't be certain if I knew her. I
had a vague feeling that we old people get sometimes, where we feel
certain that we ought to remember something, but sadly, at the moment
we simply don't. But there was no time for on-line research or

We arrived at The Forge at about 7:10 P.M. We had been told that she
was scheduled on-stage at 7:00 P.M., but we have come to understand
that “on-stage” times are notoriously late, often by an hour or two.

Not on this night. Not with this performer. We were about to discover
what it's like to be in the presence of a true professional. The huge
crowd that got there on time knew that they were in the presence of a
real blues legend. Most of them had been following her career for

As soon as we got close enough to look in the windows from the
wrap-around porch of The Forge, I could see Ann Armstrong's trademark
waist-length, braided hair. And with that glance, along with the
beginnings of the music that was blowing through the walls and into
the night air, my memories came flooding back to me. The time was the
early 1980's, and the place was Poor David's Pub in Dallas. Ann was a
frequent performer there, and on one fine evening, I had the good
fortune to be in the audience.

In an instant, I remembered her pure, clear voice and her magical
guitar playing. And now, right here in Ben Wheeler, I was fortunate
enough to find myself in her audience once again.

Clearly, she has been going forward with her life and enriching her
talents all these years. Her voice is just as open and awesome as it
was so long ago, with an added depth that probably comes from honing
her talents with the respect that great good gifts deserve.  After we
got home, I read an article wherein her voice was said to be like a
“steam-powered nightingale”. Yes, that's it; I wish I'd said that.
Indeed, it's a voice that will follow you around and stay in your head
for a long while.

Steve Hughes is Ann's long-time companion and musical partner.
Together with Steve's  harmonica and flute,  Ann's slide guitar moves
and vocal powers create a rare thing of almost unspeakable beauty.
Many of the songs she performed were those that she wrote. They mixed
seamlessly with those of Robert Johnson and others. On one song, Steve
Hughes' gravely voice took center stage, creating one of the night's
truly fine moments.

To my delight, I got to speak with Ann for a few minutes. We quickly
discovered that we were raised almost side-by-side, in the great
flatlands of Midland, Texas. She shared one of the funniest anecdotes
I've ever heard about the place; it's one I'll be passing along every
chance I get (giving proper credit, of course).

This amazing performer has stayed so busy that it has been difficult
to get her into the studio to record, so we recommend that you keep an
eye on entertainment pages or her website and go see her live. She
will be returning to The Forge on Saturday, December 14th; don't miss
that one. She does have one CD - “Lucky Charm” - which is a grand
representation of her craft. It's available on on-line, at her

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