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James Cotton: Superharps

James Cotton exerts his considerable influence on a high powered blues harp summit meeting, the aptly-titled Superharps (Telarc 83472; 64:05), with Billy Branch, Charlie Musselwhite, and Sugar Ray Norcia. All four master players join together on only one track, testifying on the 12-minute slow blues “Harp to Harp,” a perfect showcase for their highly individualistic styles. The rest of the album pairs two harpists together at a time, and the sparks do fly. Norcia, former frontman for Roomful of Blues, mixes it up with Branch on the chugging opener “I Put My Baby Out,” the supercharged boogie “Mean Little Mama” and a cool grooving, easy swinging rendition of “Route 66.” Cotton wails through a driving, shuffling version of “The Huckelbuck” then joins Musselwhite on a laidback, Jimmy Reed styled “If I Should Have Bad Luck.” More fireworks on the instrumental “T.D.’s Boogie Woogie,” fueled by some spirited exchanges between Cotton and Branch, and on the raucous roadhouse shuffle “Blues, Why Do You Worry Me,” which features Musselwhite in classic, extroverted form, blowing with abandon alongside an equally pumped-up Sugar Ray. An excellent backing band of Kid Bangham on guitar, Anthony Geraci or David Maxwell on piano, Mudcat Ward on acoustic bass and Per Hanson on drums provides the glue for this super blue ‘n’ boogie session.

Originally Published