Guitar Slim Jr.
The Story of My Life
In 1987, Guitar Slim Jr. (Rodney Armstrong) recorded his first record, The Story of My Life, at The Big Easy Studios in New Orleans, Louisiana. Son of the late Guitar Slim (Eddie Jones), who himself influenced many iconic blues artists, Slim Jr. brilliantly pays homage to some of his father’s catalog on this worthy re-release. Produced by Carlo Ditta and originally released in 1988, Slim Jr. (backed by a who’s who of New Orleans session musicians) put his own unique stamp on this ten-song collection (seven of his father’s recordings and three other covers). The album garnered a well-deserved Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Blues Recording in 1989 and it’s no wonder, as it gave fresh life to previously recorded material. The reissue is less horn-driven than the original and features Slim Jr.’s accomplished guitar skills and wide vocal range.
The one-two openers showcase Slim Jr.’s versatility and include the slow-burning “Trouble Don’t Last” into “Letter To My Girlfriend,” a fun shuffle. The majority of songs are just straight-up, blues-drenched winners, including the cover track, “The Story of My Life,” “Bad Luck Blues” (accented by Jon Cleary’s piano) and “Reap What You Sow.” On the upbeat “Well I Done Got Over,” Cleary’s piano prowess is again spotlighted as well as the sax/trumpet combo of the late Ernest “Doc” Watson and the late Milton Batiste, Jr., both once Olympia Brass Band members. “Sufferin’ Mind” rounds out the last cover of Slim Sr.’s material, and has a decidedly stronger R&B feel to it with bolder horns.
Slim Jr. does serious justice to Clarence Carter’s fabulous R&B tune, “Too Weak To Fight,” remaining relatively true to the original with the brass section front and center, but speeding up the tempo with positive results. The vocals are spot-on.
In 1969, Tyrone Davis had a number one hit on the Billboard Hot R&B Singles Chart with “Can I Change My Mind.” Slim Jr. includes his version here, changing out the horns for guitar, as he does on Davis’ “Turn Back the Hands of Time.” In both cases, he totally makes them his own.
If your a blues fan, this record is definitely worth adding to your collection. It’s always fascinating to work backwards and continue discovering or rediscovering where some blues musicians gained some of their influence. Through this record, Slim Jr. allows blues fans to do just that. He shines brightly and definitely does his father proud.