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Chicago Harp Showdown

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Album Review

James Cotton, orphaned at nine years old, turned his life around with the harmonica, apprenticing to the great Sonny Boy Williamson, going on to tour with Howlin' Wolf, and when you're picked, still in your early twenties, to replace the immortal Little Walter on harmonica in Muddy Waters' band, you're probably pretty darn good. And Cotton was that, and more. This set features live-sounding solo recordings Cotton made in the late '60s, and one can hear the influence of soul slipping into Cotton's hard-driving harp sound.


Born: July 1, 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...
Full Bio

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