James Cotton to Bring Decades of Blues Experience to Phoenix

Categories: Blues

Christopher Durst
James Cotton

On James Cotton's new CD, Cotton Mouth Man, there's a song, "He was There," that makes the point that the blues harmonica icon has performed just about everywhere. Well, on May 17 the Cotton Mouth Man will perform somewhere he hasn't performed before: The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix.

Cotton, who has been touring nonstop for decades, has performed on five continents and has lost count of how many countries in which he's performed. He has performed in Phoenix before but it was so far back he couldn't remember when.

"It makes me happy when I'm performing because I love the people," he said. "I'm looking forward to playing and having a good time in Phoenix. I'm ready to go and play for the people."

The 78-year-old shows youthful energy on his new CD, performing powerful rockin' and traditional blues.

Cotton Mouth Man, on Alligator Records, has an all-star list of performers on the CD with him, including Joe Bonamassa, Gregg Allman, Keb' Mo', Warren Haynes, Ruthie Foster and Delbert McClinton.

"I've been working for years, so I got to know all of them," Cotton said.

Cotton credits his producer Tom Hambridge for connecting him with the other blues greats. Cotton Mouth Man, which was recorded in Nashville, is meant as a positive celebration of Cotton's life. Cotton co-wrote seven songs on the CD and his larger-than-life persona comes through loud and clear.

Cotton had his vocal cords removed in 1993 due to a tumor. He can't sing like he used to, but he can still play the harmonica like one of the best in the world. The New York Times wrote, "The voice is gone, but the wind still blows."

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I think I can tell Mr. Cotton  about one time he played Phoenix. It was at the old Seattle Pilots stadium, and he opened for Janis Joplin. However, she was too drunk and/or stoned to even stand up, let alone perform, and was removed. In the face of a pissed-off crowd, Mr. Cotton returned to the stage and played a long and spectacular set, averting a riot. Ms. Joplin died not long after.

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