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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Alligator Records artist: JAMES COTTON - COTTON MOUTH MAN - New release Review - Ellis James guest contributer

Blues harmonica legend, James Cotton releases his new CD “Cotton Mouth Man” which will be available at local and online record stores beginning May 07, 2013. May is also a time in which Cotton’s 77 year old face fills the cover of the current issue of Living Blues magazine. Writer and walking Blues almanac, David White provides a 10-page look at a career spanning nearly 60 years. This CD was premiered at a live performance, Saturday, May 25, 2013 at the Tupelo Music Hall in Londonerry, New Hampshire.

Cotton Mouth Man follows the trend of collaboration and featuring key players to round out the disk filled with 13 no-nonsense blues tunes. This by no means is a compromise but in this case is a certain gift to the listener. Guests as they appear in order are Joe Bonamassa, Gregg Allman, Keb’ Mo, Warren Haynes, Ruthie Foster, Delbert McClinton and vocalist Darrell Nulisch, long time veteran of Cotton's road band. The backbone of Cotton's band on this CD are the great Tom Hambridge on drums, Rob McNelley on guitar, Chuck Leavell  on keys, and Glenn Worf  on bass.The title track, Cotton Mouth Man,  features Joe Bonamassa on  guitar played with the fervor and sound of  Ten Years After at Woodstock. Next up is Midnight Train  featuring Gregg Allman. Subtle harmonica intro that kicks into a full band punch. A healthy and strong sounding Gregg Allman delivers the vocals and organ amongst great doses of Cotton’s distinctive harmonica and tasty guitar licks from beginning to end. Mississippi Mud featuring Keb Mo is next as acoustic juke joint piano lays down the solid foundation for Cotton’s harp, tasty electric guitar with Mo’s distinctive and cool vocals covering the top. This is one cut wherein there is an extra nice harmonica bridge solo that is quite cool. A none too subtle homage is given to Muddy Waters in both name dropping tip of the hat and song title inference. Something For Me wakes things up with the Warren Haynes' slip and slide which seems to fit hand and glove to the harmonica work. Touches of the ZZ Top like ‘buzzin’ and processed vocals add to an over all effect. Heartfelt female vocals from Rutie Foster gives a great change up in style in the Wrapped Around My Heart torch song.  A more complex harmonica arrangement meshes perfectly with the blistering guitar riffs and passionate lyrics.  
Saint on Sunday gives a two-for-one “Devil on Saturday and Saint on Sunday” view of two women rolled into one. This is a straight ahead driving song with prominent harp and bass line with the organ taking a more subtle back seat. Delbert McClinton lends his distinctive vocal delivery and guitar to a definite dance tune. Hard Sometimes reminds us the of difficulties of getting someone out of your mind with a funky double entendre to boot.  Drums and Bass are featured more than other cuts in the respect lent to Young Bold Women. Three words that work well together in describing what makes everything alright. Beginning with an almost a Calypso skip beat morphs into a straight up basic 4/4 blues beat only to bounce back and forth between the timing changes resulting in a song that would be easy to believe as a fun romp for the players to perform. Story telling is  key to the lucky find of a Bird Nest On the Ground. Once again a good Cotton bridge solo which stands out as my favorite example of James’ notable talent on this recording. I have to admit that Keb’ Mo is one of my favorites for vocal style and his ability to tell a story. Wasn’t My Time To Go draws in the listener with more round house piano and subtle harp with what sounds like a tasty arch-top
Blues is Good For You is a pleasant bass-driven walking blues with a simple story filled with references to Southern style and a strong platform for Cotton to blow his blues away. This is sure to bring a tap of the toe and a smile to your face. Bonnie Blue features Cotton on vocals and harmonica laid over a basic resonator guitar.  It’s great to hear Cottons voice both because of the texture that he gives to the song and as a testament to his right to call himself a bluesman. 

If you are a fan of harmonica blues then this is certainly a release that demands your spin time and attention. Less is more in this case. Production values are superior and a definite recommended collection!

If you support live Blues acts, up and coming Blues talents and want to learn more about Blues news and Fathers of the Blues, ”LIKE” ---Bman’s Blues Report--- Facebook Page! I’m looking for great talent and trying to grow the audience for your favorite band! Here's James live in concert. Not a cut from his current release.

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