Guitar Slim Jr – The Story Of My Life | Album Review

Guitar Slim Jr – The Story Of My Life

Orleans Records – 2017

10 tracks; 30 minutes

Rodney Armstrong is the son of Eddie ‘Guitar Slim’ Jones and acquired the moniker Guitar Slim Junior after his father died. Based in New Orleans, Slim Jr was already an established performer when this album was recorded in summer 1987. The album was then nominated for a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues recording in 1988. Quite why it has now been re-released is unclear from the notes though those do state that Slim was something of a reluctant participant in the original sessions, stating that he “had no interest in making an album”. Since then Slim has continued to play in Louisiana and release occasional albums, the last being in 2010.

The Story Of My Life was recorded in the Big Easy with drummers Shannon Powell (Preservation Hall) and Kerry Brown, bassists René Coman (The Iguanas) and Charles Moore, keyboard players Keith Fazarde, Jon Cleary and AJ Loria appear on one track each, Keith also playing vibes on one, Stanley Atkins and David B Moorland add second guitar parts to one track each and five tracks have horns added by New Orleans stalwart Milton Batiste (trumpet) and Ernest Watson (sax); backing vocals are added to two tracks by Sylvia and Oneida Joseph. The album was produced by Carlo Ditta and engineered by David B Moorhead with Milton Batiste writing the horn charts. All lead vocals and guitar are by Guitar Slim Jr.

Although Slim is quoted as not wanting to ride his Dad’s coattails this album does feature no fewer than seven Guitar Slim tunes together with covers of three soul tunes. The opening quartet includes “Trouble Don’t Last” in which Slim’s guitar and vocals are very reminiscent of his Dad’s style, the horns adding to the chorus. “Letter To My Girlfriend” cuts out at the two minute mark and one wonders why. This lively shuffle is followed by two slow blues, the title track “The Story Of My Life” and “Bad Luck Blues” on which the horns and an uncredited pianist embellish the tune. “Can I Change My Mind” is the first of two songs originally sung by Tyrone Davis and the change in pace and style is immediate with soulful rhythm guitar and keys driving the song along in attractive manner, Slim playing a light-fingered solo over what one assumes is also his rhythm work as no other guitarist is credited. Even better is Clarence Carter’s “Too Weak To Fight” with an excellent horn arrangement, Slim’s soulful vocal and some strong guitar work, probably the highlight track of the album. “Reap What You Sow” is Guitar Slim’s song (not the Otis Rush song also known as “Mourning In The Morning”) and it’s another slow blues before a short version of “Well, I Done Got Over It” has Jon Cleary’s piano well up in the mix set against the horns. Vibes add a lightness of touch to the second Tyrone Davis song “Turn Back The Hands Of Time” before the album ends with one of Slim Senior’s most famous songs, “Sufferin’ Mind”. The horns are clearly on this one although uncredited and the backing vocals are so distant that they sound like they were recorded in another building! Slim’s guitar cuts through the arrangement to deliver a good solo on a very short version of the song.

Fans of Guitar Slim will know most of this material well and may wonder whether his son adds anything distinctive to them. Hearing this album some thirty years after it was made one realises that recording standards have been raised and there are clearly some inaccuracies in the credits which is surprising for a re-release. Overall this reviewer was a little surprised that the album made a Grammy shortlist but it is a decent if unspectacular listen.

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