Giant is an apt description of James Cotton's personality, his stature, the sound he gets from his harp and an equally apt name and description of this disc, which draws upon his personality and his talent. He has played with just about every outstanding, and a few not so outstanding, blues musicians to come down that arduous path in his 66 years as a professional. As a youngster, 9 years old, he was taken under the wing of Sonny Boy Williamson, who had been impressed with his talent, and traveled with him to juke joints throughout the South. During this time he moved from his home in Mississippi and he made Memphis his base. He cut his first record for Sun in 1953-54. He then hooked up with and traveled with Howlin' Wolf and was able to make a name for himself. Later when Muddy Waters came through the area without Junior Wells he asked Cotton to join his band. He stayed with Muddy and his band for about a decade, during this time he spent a few years as the leader of Waters' backing band. After his stint with Muddy he headed out on his own, leading his own bands and was known as one of the hardest touring musicians around, always ready with a full-blown show. He gained a huge following in the breakout of the blues during the late 60's and 70s and was known for his dynamic and forceful shows. He won a Grammy in 1996 for his Deep In The Blues disc.
On Giant, he wrote two new songs and also revisits three tunes written by Muddy Waters, does a great version of Buried Alive In The Blues, written by Nick Gravenites, as well as songs by Ivory Joe Hunter, Jimmy Rogers, among others. For this disc he has as usual a tight band that knows who the star is but also isn't afraid to step it up. He has Slam Allen on vocals and guitar, Tom Holland on guitar and vocal on Sad Sad Day, Noel Neal on bass, and Kenny Neal Jr. on drums. This Alligator disc is a great reminder that some of these Bluesmen can still get after it and play, and play their younger counterparts under the table. At some 70-plus years he is still willing and more than able to blow with the best of them.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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