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James Cotton: Fire Down Under the Hill

James Cotton’s Fire Down Under the Hill (Telarc Blues 83497; 51:46) keeps his legend alive and kicking. Cotton’s heroic harp work is in full effect from the lively instrumental opener “Cotton Jump Boogie” to the shuffling instrumental “Lightning” to an emotional reading of the title track, an 11-minute instrumental slow blues that also features strong solo contributions from pianist David Maxwell and guitarist Rico McFarland. Cotton’s painfully impaired pipes (he’s been diagnosed with throat cancer) add a chilling, almost disturbing note to his five vocal numbers here: Willie Dixon’s “Young Fashioned Ways,” Muddy Waters’ “Woman Wanted” and “Feel Like Going Home,” Lowell Fulson’s “Reconsider Baby” and Guitar Slim’s apocalyptic “Something to Remember You By.” Darrell Nulisch helps out with vocals on Jimmie Rogers’ “That’s Alright” and his own “Boot Knockin’ Boogie.” Stirring performances of classic blues material by one of the all-time greats.

Originally Published