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High Compression

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This 1984 album captures the former Muddy Waters Band harmonica powerhouse's down-home and uptown sides. Ten high-energy tunes are split between two bands. A quintet spearheaded by fellow Mississippians Pinetop Perkins on piano and Magic Slim on guitar supports Cotton on Delta-based numbers like the randy "Diggin' My Potatoes" and "No More Doggin'." A funky, backbeat driven octet with a horn section pounds out up-tempo, James Brown-inspired booty shakers like "Ying Yang" and "No More Cuttin' Loose." Cotton handles both styles with righteous vigor, and his coarse sandpaper singing and bold, horn-like harmonica lines - full of fat tones and note-bending virtuosity - demand attention even when the big band's at full throttle. It's unbridled performances like these that made Cotton, who lost his voice to cancer in the '90s, a favorite of '70s and '80s rock audiences.


Born: 01 July 1935 in Tunica, MS

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

At his high-energy, 1970s peak as a bandleader, James Cotton was a bouncing, sweaty, whirling dervish of a bluesman, roaring his vocals and all but sucking the reeds right out of his defenseless little harmonicas with his prodigious lung power. Due to throat problems, Cotton's vocals are no longer what they used to be, but he remains a masterful instrumentalist. Cotton had some gargantuan shoes to fill when he stepped into Little Walter's slot as Muddy Waters' harp ace in 1954, but for the next dozen...
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