Bluesman Alabama Slim of Vance, Alabama was poised for a late-in-life breakout with a scheduled appearance at the 2020 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Although the event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Slim is moving forward with the release of his new solo project, The Parlor. On the album, the 82-year-old performer dives deep into the soulful blues that he grew up listening to in the South.
Thanks to ongoing support from the Music Maker Foundation, Alabama Slim had the opportunity to play alongside his cousin and fellow bluesman Little Freddie King for this special release. The pair, who describe themselves as “tighter than brothers,” recorded the album in only four hours along with drummer Ardie Dean. The Parlor, named after the New Orleans studio where it was recorded in a single take, is an instant classic. Slim’s vocals have been compared to those of John Lee Hooker, and the mix of King’s guitar and Dean’s drumming results in a hard driving boogie. The 10 tracks on the album showcase Slim’s masterful vocals that are dripping in soul. From originals like the politically charged “Forty Jive” (about the former U.S. President) and “Robbed Me Without a Gun” to covers of blues classics like “Rock Me Baby,” Slim stamps out his place as a talented blues musician.
It has been said that Alabama Slim sings as impeccably as he has been known to dress, and I don’t disagree. Unrecorded for most of his life despite his lifelong passion for the genre, Slim is an example of the blues tradition that is still alive and well at the community level. As he states, “I sit on the porch. Songs just natural come to me.” Whether performing on the porch or in the parlor, Alabama Slim is a true original.
Reviewed by Chloe McCormick