Without broken hearts there would be no blues. Hell, without broken hearts there would be no music. Love and its loss drive so many songs and records. It is all-powerful in music.
The blues covers this and so much more… the musical ground it stomps on is varied and diverse. While the lyrics may sting and cry of pain, quite often the music will kick you in the ass, get you out of your seat and on the dance floor.
While I have not seen the 2003 documentary series on the Blues that Scorsese put together (yes, I must) I do know a bit about the history of the music.
It was born in the South and came from the work songs and field hollers… It took shape in 12 bars and moved up the mighty highways 66 and 41 and became electrified, finding a bright and powerful home in Chicago. There are Country Blues, Delta Blues, Mississippi Blues, Memphis Blues, Chicago Blues… Swamp Blues, Electric Blues… the list is huge.
Then came Rhythm & Blues and Blues based Rock… Blues is what you want and need it to be.
Being in Chicago gave me an introduction to all of this… I will never forget Alligator Records… and being in Biddy Mulligan’s on so many occasions… The venue was at 7644 N Sheridan Road, and I still have a real hard time knowing it is closed… That sucks!
Of course I will always remember seeing James Cotton and his unbelievably tight band… They blew me away and made me feel so damn alive. This album captures some of that amazing magic.
James Cotton And His Big Band – Live From Chicago Mr. Superharp Himself
This was recorded at Biddy Mulligan’s and culled from shows Feb. 1, 1986 – Feb. 3, 1986. I cannot recall if I was there for the taping, but it is quite possible as I was at NU at that time. Hmmm…
AllMusic says the “band is sloppy (especially horn section)” on this one… Are they fricking kidding??? What am I missing???
I have played harp along to this album so many times… or at least have tried to. Cotton is a true harmonica master. I love his style and voice and energy… and seeing him live… Wow!
The excitement of the opening track sets the tone… “Here I Am (Knocking At Your Door)” lights the fire and sets the room aglow… then the flames are fanned on “Part Time Love”
He brings it down a bit on “Just To Be With You” and then right back on “Hard Headed”.
He was born in 1935, so I was seeing him at age 50. At age 77 he is still out there playing. Amazing.
My favorite song of the record and probably my favorite James Cotton tune is “When It Rains It Pours” written by Dallas blues musician Bobby Patterson.
My favorite studio record is 1974’s stunning 100% Cotton with Matt “Guitar” Murphy. “Creeper Creeps Again” is one of those virtuoso harp performances… Crazy! So is his cover of the famed “Rocket 88”. He gives the first solo to what sounds like a muted sax and then wails on the next one.
SRM… How can you not like the Blues??? This music moves me so!!!
Enjoy the week y’all!