Cotton Mouth Man

In spite of having undergone throat surgery for cancer 20 years ago, harmonica player James Cotton (aka Mr. Superharp) continues to blow as hard as ever. Since the surgery Cotton’s delegated the singing to others—most notably Darrel Nulisch, who sings six songs here. He’s also surrounded by a batch of guests that includes Delbert McClinton, Ruthie Foster, Gregg Allman (all on vocals), with Keb’ Mo’ and Warren Haynes singing and playing guitar. Things get off to a rousing start with Cotton, guitarist Joe Bonamassa and Nulisch getting down on the title track. The autobiographical “He Was There” tells of Cotton’s 1954 arrival in Chicago where he gained fame in Muddy Waters’ band. It wouldn’t be the blues without at least one double-entendre song, and “Hard Sometimes” more than fills the bill: When McClinton describes missing his woman, it’s understandable why “it gets hard sometimes.” “Saint on Sunday” is the lively saga of a woman “who’s two women rolled into one/she’s a saint on Sunday and a devil when the weekend comes.” Cotton steps mic-side on “Bonnie Blue” to reminisce about the cotton plantation where he was born and sharecropped with his family.

James Cotton performs Thursday, May 30, 8 p.m., at The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley. Visit for more info.