James Cotton – Rocks


James Cotton - Rocks

James Cotton – Rocks
Format: CD – Digital
Label: Sun Records – Bear Family Records
Release: 2024

Release date: June 24, 2024

1-CD (Digipak) with 36 page booklet, 27 tracks. Total playing time approx. 75 min.

The harmonica as a lead instrument for rock and roll!
Yeah, sure, why not?
Especially when the mouth harp is wielded by James Cotton, the man who grew up with blues giants during the formative years of rock ‘n’ roll and went on to have one of the first R&B bands to play on the white rock festival circuit.

Cotton – one of the most celebrated figures in the world of blues harmonica – was also a rock ‘n’ roll man. For that reason, this is one of the most significant discs in our ‘Rocks’ series.

Growing up in a world where rock heroes, and most blues heroes, were singers, guitar players, sometimes piano players, maybe sax men, Cotton said he modelled his harp playing on the saxophone parts in rhythm and blues and jazz.

He was championed by rock bands as both an influence and a comrade in the electric blues-rock years. The ‘Chicago Tribune’ reviewed his harp playing as “gritty, gutsy, ferociously uninhibited, and what great harp work is all about.”

This CD of superfine music shows where the blues came from and where R&B and rock ‘n’ roll took it. The tracks are full of invigorating harp riffs and solos but they also contain excellent vocal performances by James Cotton himself and by his one-time boss, Muddy Waters.

It was Sonny Boy Williamson who taught Cotton the basics of getting a tune out of the harmonica, and of an audience, in Mississippi. After a spell in West Memphis and recording for Sun, Cotton then recorded and worked for years with the master of the hard-edged Chicago blues, Muddy Waters.

And then he formed his own band in the mid-1960s. It was called The James Cotton Blues Band, but he and every one of his men knew how to rock out too. Cotton said: “I try to play from deep inside me and to keep the music honest. I prefer it upbeat and up-tempo too because all the problems people have are gone once we start playing.”

James Cotton was born in July 1935 near Tunica, Ms. He lived variously in West Memphis, Chicago, Memphis, and Dallas. He died in March 2017 in Texas, aged 81.

Cotton continued to record into the 1970s and for another three decades beyond. He won a Grammy and other awards and was still guesting at music festivals and picking up accolades at awards shows in his eighties. But all that is another story. For the moment, we’re focusing here on how the earlier music of James Cotton… Rocks.

Website: https://sunrecords.com/artists/james-cotton/

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