James Cotton is quite possibly the last of the "old school" blues harmonica player left. Cotton has been playing the blues for nearly five decades beginning in 1954 when he filled the shoes of Little Walter in Muddy Waters' band. Traveling with the king of Chicago blues had been a move that James Cotton had been preparing for with the support of his harp instructor, Sonny Boy Williams. By the late 1960's Cotton was reading to venture out on his own. Signed with Verve, The James Cotton Blues Band put out their first full-length self-titled release in 1967. The sound was gritty, intense and passionate. Cotton still demands top billing despite the fact that throat problems have robbed him of his once boisterous roar. He is still considered one of the greatest blues harp players of all-time.
Comprised of mainly James Cotton originals, 35th Anniversary Jam is more or less a tribute to this bluesman and his music. For the record, Cotton enlisted the help of the next generation of blues players including, Tab Benoit and Kenny Neal, as well as some old friends such as Koko Taylor, Ronnie Hawkins, and Bobby Rush. The disc gets cookin' from the get go with the Sonny Boy Williams classic, 'Don't Start Me Talking' (sung by Kenny Neal) as James wails in signature style. While James Cotton doesn't sing a note throughout the entire recording, his harp playing is as fierce as ever as on the instrumental shuffle 'The Creeper'. With Syl Johnson on vocals and Jimmie Vaughan on guitar, the band tackles the JC standard 'Rocket 88' with a commanding intensity. The record ends with a dedication to the late John Lee Hooker with an instrumental featuring only James Cotton and Jimmie Vaughan titled 'Blues For The Hook'.
The array of talent who contributed to this CD is truly amazing and is evidence that after close to 50 years, James Cotton is still the premier blues harp player who remains unrivaled.
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