One may argue the point, but in the long run it’d be fruitless. James Cotton is the most important blues harmonica player on earth today. His is a lengthy and storied career that has seen him work with the greats of the genre like Muddy Waters flowing into a brilliant solo path of his own. Even today, in his late 70s, he still blows fiery harp licks with the best of them.
Cotton’s newest release, Cotton Mouth Man, is sensational. Released by Alligator Records, this disc finds Cotton reminiscing about his life in story and song. Produced by one of the best in the business, Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy, Susan Tedeschi, Joe Louis Walker, etc), in Nashville, the project features some of the top in the business performing with him. From his touring band there is vocalist Darrell Nulisch, guitarist Tom Holland and bassist Noel Neal. Others appearing on the disc include Keb’ Mo’, Ruthie Foster, Joe Bonamassa, Gregg Allman, Warren Haynes, Chuck Leavell, Delbert McClinton and Colin Linden. A virtual who’s who in the blues world. Hambridge, besides producing this excellent recording, has his hand mixed in throughout as both a drummer and as songwriter on all but one tune.
Cotton Mouth Man is pure traditional Chicago-styled blues brought at its best. There is plenty to be excited about here, with personal favorites opting for Ruthie Foster’s passionate vocals on “Wrapped Around My Heart,” the driving force behind “Midnight Train” with Gregg Allman and Chuck Leavell, Keb’ Mo’ singing about the “Mississippi Mud and the hardships of working in the Delta also enhanced by superb piano from Leavell, and Darrell Nulisch taking the forefront on selections “He Was There” explaining about Cotton’s part in the heyday of the 50s-60s blues scene in Chicago and the presence of those “Young Bold Women” and what they can do to your brain, driving you insane.
Though James Cotton’s vocals abilities have been lost some years back due to throat cancer, he still brings forth a strong outing behind the mic on the closing number, “Bonnie Blue,” an acoustical duet with Colin Linden providing stunning slide guitar. It is a compelling and gripping piece to leave you believing James Cotton is indestructible, no matter what is thrown his way.
Whatever you do, never count James Cotton down for the count. There is still a great deal of fire within his soul that promises we have not seen the last of him. Cotton Mouth Man is certainly testimony to that. Among the blues releases in 2013 to date, this one must be considered indispensable. You need this in your collection. Outstanding!
Total Time: 48:58
Cotton Mouth Man / Midnight Train / Mississippi Mud / He Was There / Something For Me / Wrapped Around My Heart / Saint On Sunday / Hard Sometimes / Young Bold Women / Bird Nest On The Ground / Wasn’t My Time To Go / Blues Is Good For You / Bonnie Blue