James Cotton Band

The Hopkins Center for the Arts launches its new venture as a venue for national artists with a visit from blues harmonica giant James Cotton. A native of Tunica, Mississippi, Cotton is a direct link to both the Delta blues and the blues' subsequent reign in Chicago. And his résumé is packed with legendary characters. He was taught by Sonny Boy Williamson, worked with Howlin' Wolf and Junior Parker, recorded with Sam Phillips in Memphis, and eventually landed a longtime spot as the harmonica player in Muddy Waters's band. That in turn led to sharing stages with many of the blues-obsessed rock bands of the '60s, and, ultimately, leading his own band. At 74, Cotton still wails on harmonica, living up to his Superharp nickname, but his throat was ravaged by surgery a while back, severely curtailing his singing. So his last album, 2004's Baby Don't You Tear My Clothes, sported such guest vocalists as Marcia Ball and Doc Watson. He'll bring along his band, which at last report included two members of the illustrious Neal blues family of Baton Rouge: bassist Noel Neal and drummer Kenny Neal Jr., son and grandson of Louisiana harmonica ace Raful Neal.
Tue., Jan. 19, 6 p.m., 2010

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