COTTON MOUTH MAN
Cotton Mouth Man, Midnight Train, Mississippi Mud, He Was There, Something For Me, Wrapped Around My Heart, Saint On Sunday, Hard Sometimes, Young Bold Women, Bird Nest On The Ground, Wasn't My Time To Go, Blues Is Good For You, Bonnie Blue.
Following the Grammy-nomination for his previous album (2010's Giant - ALCD4940), it is no surprise that Alligator invited James Cotton back for more. But how do you get over the undoubted fact that, now creeping towards his late 70s, his speaking and singing voice is notably more frail than it was? The answer was to invite along some guests to share vocal chores, leaving the main man free to re-create his former glories as a powerful and commanding Chicago blues harp player.
This approach is not without risk of course and Cotton could have been lost in the shuffle of changing musicians and vocalists. Thankfully, this has not happened and Cotton is forever to the fore, blowing his trademark blues harp across each of these 13 tracks harder and better than I have heard since his towering contribution to Muddy's career-resurrecting Hard Again album in 1977.
The songs also ensure that this is very much a James Cotton album, being mostly originals consciously written (by producer Tom Hambridge with Richard Fleming, and often Cotton himself) to reflect upon aspects of Cotton's life. This helps make the songs personal and interesting.
And, most importantly, the music is simply tremendous, muscular and direct Chicago blues from start to finish, involving a stellar group of guests who either stick around throughout (such as Chuck Leavell on piano) or just throw their weight in behind one song - like Joe Bonamassa's guitar on the title track. Other excellent turns include lead vocals from Gregg Allman on a breezy Midnight Train, Delbert McLinton on the rolling Hard Sometimes, Warren Haynes on a rocking Something For Me, Ruthie Foster on a soulful Wrapped Around My Heart and Keb' Mo' on both Wasn't My Time To Go and Mississippi Mud. Most of the other vocals are manfully handled by Darrell Nulisch, with Cotton himself closing the set with Bonnie Blue, just his whispery but affecting vocals over Colin Linden's Resonator Guitar.
A triumph really and as good a James Cotton album as I can recall hearing. Ever!
Review Date: April 2013