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James Cotton: It Was A Very Good Year

Jim Santella By

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Singing traditional blues, James Cotton captures the original foundation as it was created centuries ago. How many times have you been working hard all day long at some particular task and just felt like singing "It's been a hard journey, baby, but I don't have to cry no more." Cotton's original, "One More Mile," moves slow and emotional. He manages to interpret a field holler mood that gave rise to the blues long before worldwide acceptance. Cotton was 32 when this was recorded. In prime form, he sang a combination of R&B, soul, Chicago and traditional blues for the nightclub audience. His blues harp is used only as a fill, except for his smokin' "Midnight Creeper," which brings back the thrill. The whole band lights up explosively, quoting from pop tunes of the day and quoting Dave Brubeck verbatim. It's quite an adventure. The rest of the album remains uneven. "How Sweet It Is," for example, comes across in poor health; while the session's opening title track lights up as if for a party.

Recorded September 28, 1967 before a live audience at The New Penelope Café in Montreal, this session has its sound problems. There's no denying, however, that the band had spirit. It's that attitude that gets ya. It was about this same time that Ottawa native Dan Aykroyd "got hooked" on the blues and started experimenting with harp blowing. In Toronto, he enjoyed sessions similar to this one and came up with the ideas that would eventually lead to his Blues Brothers skits on television. A strong tie to blues roots and a youthful air will work every time.

Cotton met Sonny Boy Williamson at age nine. It was more than a mere acquaintance. The youth traveled with Williamson, learning the ropes, and working for tips outside the clubs where the veteran was appearing. Next, he teamed up with Howlin' Wolf while still a teenager and toured the Deep South. Just shy of his 20th birthday, Cotton teamed up with Muddy Waters and stayed with him for twelve years, leaving a year before this recording was made. On his own, the rising star sang the blues and led a band that allowed him to interact with guitar players. It Was A Very Good Year is testimony of what Cotton was doing at that time. Still working today and still making powerful impressions on veteran listeners, James Cotton is proof that this timeless music keeps you young forever.

Track Listing: It Was A Very Good Year; Mystery Train; She's My Baby; One More Mile; How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You); I Can't Quit You Baby; Sweet Sixteen; Midnight Creeper; Hoochie Coochie Man; You're So Fine.

Personnel: James Cotton- harmonica, vocals; Luther Tucker- guitar; Albert Gianquinto- piano; Bobby Anderson- bass; Francis Clay- drums.

Title: It Was A Very Good Year | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Just A Memory

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