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James Cotton - Giant (Alligator, 2010)

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A legend on the blues scene for many years, harmonica player James Cotton began his career as a member of the Muddy Waters Blues Band, and cut a series of great early singles for the Sun Records label. He's barely slowed down since, and even though health problem have caused him to cede the singing duties to others, his harmonica playing remains as boisterous and powerful as ever. Cotton is supported on this album by Slam Allen and Tom Holland who share the guitar and singing duties, Noel Neal on bass and Kenny Neal, Jr. on drums. The band deftly tackles twelve standards and originals, ranging from the harp centered instrumentals “With the Quickness" and “Blues For Koko" which show Cotton's powerful playing at its most unfettered, to a couple of performances of songs originally associated with B.B. King. “How Blue Can You Get" and “Since I Met You Baby" have been staples of the King band and blues in general for decades and the band does very well with them, taking the former as an up-tempo shuffle, and the latter as a lovelorn lament that wrings all of the emotion out of the old warhorse. “Buried Alive in the Blues" shows the whole band getting involved, Cotton is generous with his band, giving them space, but he picks is spots well and really blows with great savvy and verve. He recently celebrated his 75th birthday, and is playing very well as this album shows. Giant—amazon.com

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