Originally released in 1988, Guitar Slim Jr.’s The Story of My Life earned a Grammy nomination in the Best Traditional Blues category. The album sounds just as good now as it did back then and is ready to be discovered by a new audience.
This stood as the debut album for Rodney Armstrong, a.k.a. Guitar Slim Jr., the son of legendary guitarist and vocalist Guitar Slim, Eddie Jones, who rose to fame with his giant hit, 1954’s “The Things That I Used to Do.” The Story of My Life was recorded when Guitar Slim Jr. was in his mid-thirties and already a veteran guitar player and vocalist on the club scene. It put him on the map, seemingly to many, to emerge from the blue.
From the first notes of “Trouble Don’t Last,” it’s easy to tell why the release made such an impact. The slow, slow blues, which was written by his father—as were the next three cuts plus more later—begins with just Guitar Jr.’s totally expressive voice. Backed by drummer Shannon Powell, bassist Rene Coman, trumpeter Milton Batiste and saxophonist Ernest Watson, Guitar Slim Jr. was in good hands. An inventive soul, the guitarist offers up anything but a standard solo.
New Orleans rhythm and blues is represented on “Letter to My Girlfriend, a 1:53 selection that features just the trio. Simple proves it can go a long, long way as demonstrated on this cut plus the title tune, “The Story of My Life.”
Guitar Slim Jr. does some solid work both vocally and instrumentally, covering soul classics like “Can I Change My Mind,” with drummer Kerry Brown, bassist Charles Moore and keyboardist Keith Fazarde.
Returning to the tunes penned by his father and the musicians heard on the first cut, Guitar Slim Jr. gets back into that R&B mode with some solid help by pianist Jon Cleary mixing it up with veterans. The leader poignantly takes it out with the late night sound of “Sufferin’ Mind.”
The Story of My Life belongs in any comprehensive New Orleans music collection. It’s an essential.