2004 Grammy Nomination for Best Traditional Blues Album
Veteran blues harpist James Cotton, a veteran of the Chicago blues tradition who ran with Muddy Waters' pack during the '50s and '60s, bares it all in a rollicking new release, Baby, Don't You Tear My Clothes, his latest installment on Telarc. The new album follows his 35th Anniversary Jam, the 2002 release that scored a W.C. Handy for Traditional Blues Album of the Year.
Joining the celebrated bluesman on Baby, Don't Tear My Clothes is a collection of some of the best musicians from around the world, each helping Cotton bring to life his vision of American roots music. Bobby Rush brings his signature chitlin' circuit groove to the title track, while Odetta and James pair up on the blues classic, "Key to the Highway." Doc and Merle Watson join Cotton on a nostalgic country guitar/harmonica party on Leroy Carr's seminal "How Long Blues." Other roots music luminaries on board include C.J. Chenier, Rory Block, Dave Alvin, Jim Lauderdale, Peter Rowan, and Marcia Ball.
Cotton's core band at the foundation of Baby, Don't You Tear My Clothes includes some solid musicians as well, several of whom appeared on the 35th Anniversary Jam recording: guitarist Derek O'Brien, pianist David Maxwell, bassist Noel Neal and drummer Per Hanson.
Born in 1935 in Tunica, Mississippi, Cotton started playing harmonica at age six. He first learned to mimic the sounds of passing freight trains until he heard Sonny Boy Williamson on the King Biscuit Hour over station KFFA in Helena, Arkansas. Though Williamson was known for his irascible personality, he took note of Cotton's precocious talent and took the nine-year-old boy under his wing for the next five or six years.
Cotton and Williamson parted ways in1950, and Cotton formed his own band in Memphis, where he caught the attention of Sun Records founder and roots rock pioneer Sam Phillips. Cotton recorded classics like "Hold Me In Your Arms" and "Cotton Crop Blues" on the Sun label before hooking up with Muddy Waters in 1954 at age 18.
Cotton played in Waters' band for the next twelve years, then struck out on his own in 1966. For the next three decades and beyond, Cotton recorded on various labels and covered countless miles of road—bringing his mix of Delta and urban blues to the masses on a first-hand basis, staying true to his roots despite neverending shifts in music fashion.
Baby, Don't You Tear My Clothes is Cotton's third solo release on Telarc. He joined the label in 2000 with the release of Fire Down Under the Hill, followed by 35th Anniversary Blues Jam two years later. In that time, he has also appeared on several blues compilations and tribute albums released on Telarc.