Bonnie Blue - James Cotton

from the album Cotton Mouth Man (2013)

I remember watching an interview with Mick Jagger back in the 1980's where he was asked if he ever thought he would be too old to rock and roll.  He replied by speaking about the great blues musicians from the 1940's and 1950's who continued to make great music into their later years.  He considered them to be role models for what he hoped to accomplish.  Me too.

Many of the artists he was speaking of have since past, but there are still a few who remain.  James Cotton is one of particular note. Taught to play harmonica by Sonny Boy Williamson II, this seventy-seven year old is best remembered for his years playing with artists like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf.  His performances are electrifying.  My favorite is his song Rocket '88, recorded back in 1966 for Vanguard Records.

I love that James Cotton is still out there, playing the blues.  His latest album, Cotton Mouth Man, stands in the tradition of great blues artists who never stop making great music.  His harmonica playing on this record gives me chills.

Unfortunately, his voice has deteriorated in recent years and he has had to leave the vocal duties to others.  On this album, some of the finest members of the current blues generation - including Gregg Allman, Ruthie Foster, and Keb' Mo' - all lend their voices to his songs.  It makes for a great record.

However, on the album's closing number - Bonnie Blue - James Cotton sings and plays harmonica, accompanied by some fine acoustic guitar playing.  His gravel voice tells his life story.  You here it in the opening verse:

I was born on Bonnie Blue
And I'm gonna play the blues for you
I was born on Bonnie Blue
And I'm gonna play the blues for you
I ain't never learned to read or write
The blues are that all I know to do

Bonnie Blue was the unofficial flag of the Confederate States of America.  This land has left many legacies.  My favorite is the music.  James Cotton represents a beautiful art form that began in the south, came to Chicago, and changed the world.

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