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Authentic as it was fun

James Cotton / Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater
Turner Hall
Milwaukee, WI
Feb. 6, 2009
James Cotton
James Cotton
Eddy
Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater
James Cotton
James Cotton

Story by Mike Linneman
Photos by Joe Hargreaves

Blues concerts are always a great environment. Everyone starts at the same place and ends at the same place....they all "get" it. Friday night at Turner Hall Ballroom, James Cotton & Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater brought blues and all the 'fixins' to Milwaukee.

In his early '70s, Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater is one of the original Chicago bluesmen who still performs nationally & internationally. Any apprehensions about his age were extinguished the second "The Chief" strutted onto the stage, his left handed guitar slung around his shoulder like an extension of him. Like a father disciplining his son, Eddy scolded notes, replacing previous years of speed with the truth of each note, teaching lessons in the blues, keeping it fun and loose all at the same time. Blending all of that together with his band, his joy was infectious. Eddy has a new release on Alligator Records titled West Side Strut and he included many of the songs from it in between his classic tunes. The energy was high on & off stage as the audience clapped and cheered and tried to match the joy apparent on The Chief's face at the end of every song. Father time hasn't caught up yet with this original Chicago bluesman, never more apparent than when Eddy actually broke out the West Side Strut as he was leaving the stage.

Cotton aka "Mr. Superharp," was up next and getting the crowd ready was one of the best bands in the business. The James Cotton band, made up of guitarist's Slam Allen & Tom Holland, with bassist Noel Neal and Kenny Neal, Jr. on drums, took little time driving the audience into a frenzy, with Allen inviting them in for an extra helping of "blues feeling."

The master harp player, swaying to the music off to the side of the stage, finally walked out and found his spot. A chair center stage, near a table full of his blues weapons. It is easy to think of the harmonica in solitary terms, its sound needing to be isolated. Cotton uses the harp, like a chiropractor. To realign you. The swampy tones and vibrato are only surpassed by his phrasing which is so perfect it bleeds of the time put in to master it. Cotton used an arsenal of pitch ranges, timbres and tones to take the audience with him wherever he was going.

Handling lead vocals, lead guitarist Slam Allen rolled thru a set that kept the crowd dancing and energized. Highlights included "Love Me or Leave Me," "How Blue Can You Get?", "Sweet Home Chicago" and "Let the Good Times Roll." James Cotton was once an integral part of the Muddy Waters Blues Band leaving in 1966 to perform with his own group. Ever since, he has always had a huge following, typified on this night by fan Collette Perry who told me "I have seen James so many times and will keep seeing him anytime, anywhere, I can." Towards the end of the show, Cotton paid tribute to his former boss Muddy Waters, performing "I Got My Mojo Workin," to the delight of the crowd, eliciting thunderous applause.

Blues music, connecting old fans with new ones, James Cotton & Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater gave a tremendous show that was as authentic as it was fun.
James Cotton
James Cotton
Eddy
Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater
James Cotton
James Cotton
Eddy
Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater
James Cotton
James Cotton
Eddy
Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater
James Cotton
James Cotton
Eddy
Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater
Eddy Clearwater
Eddy Clearwater
Eddy Clearwater
Eddy Clearwater
James Cotton
James Cotton

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