Downright Dirty Blues Guitar
Like his pioneering father, Guitar Slim, before him, Rodney Armstrong (aka “Guitar Slim Jr.”) has garnered a reputation for playing downright dirty blues guitar, with some soul repertoire mixed in. Although there aren’t a lot of recordings to his name, his album The Story of My Life was nominated for a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album in 1989. It is set to be released again here in 2017.
On The Story of My Life, which consists of several covers of his father’s old tunes, Slim Jr.’s playing is proficient as ever, whether he is playing traditional blues accompaniment underneath his wide vocal range or adding virtuosic flourishes in between phrases — something for which the older Guitar Slim was also famous. He treats the guitar like a second vocalist that offers up countermelodies to his own singing, and with strong vibrato and authoritative string-bending, he really makes it sing as well.
Slim Jr. is a blues musician first and foremost, and so blues and blues-influenced rock are the most prominent sounds on The Story of My Life. However, he’s far from a one-trick pony. There are slow, wistful ballads in 6/8 time, such as the title track and “Reap What You Sow,” but there are also up-tempo shuffles, such as “Letter To My Girlfriend,” and horn-laden gospel in the form of “Too Weak To Fight,” both of which give the album a nice dash of diversity and fun. The lyrics are traditional blues fare, mostly about heartbreak in some form or another.
There aren’t any real weaknesses on the album, so the deciding factor is solely if the listener is a fan of blues. If he or she is, The Story of My Life is a pretty great blues record. Slim Jr. spent most of his time in New Orleans nightclubs, recording minimally; but when he finally did it was a great investment. The Grammy nomination was certainly well deserved.
Overall, Slim Jr. is an impressively talented guitarist and vocalist, who put together a killer record reminiscent of his father’s old blues work. I’m sure he’d be very proud of his son’s playing today.