You know the feeling of elation after finding a 20-dollar-bill in last year's winter coat? Well, today, I got that same feeling after stumbling upon an artist I'd never heard while listening to the "acoustic blues" channel on AOL radio. "Acoustic blues," a long-time favorite of mind, normally digs deep into the back catalog of old Delta blues and folk standards; rarely do we hear any contemporary artists, and for good reason -- because the movement saw its heyday from around the turn of the 20th Century until the early 1950's. So I was somewhat surprised to hear a recording without the typical hisses, crackles and pops of most of the songs from that era. Even more surprising was my reaction to learn that the performer was white -- another paradox when talking about the Delta blues. Lo and behold, his name is Chris Cotton and I assure you, he is the real deal. Reminiscent of the likes of Mississippi John Hurt, Big Bill Broonzy, John Lee Hooker and Blind Lemon Jefferson, I was floored by his gritty tone and soulful finger-picking style -- an absolute must if you intend on channeling the spirits of the great ones. According to his bio on Last.fm:
"An aural portrait that owes a debt to Southern bluesmen and Americana pioneers alike, Chris Cotton’s Yellow Dog Records debut sounds like a house party caught on tape – world-weary men effortlessly strumming their guitars and bass, while passing around a jug of whiskey for sustenance. The barrelhouse piano, is, of course, pushed up against one wall; Cotton’s gravelly voice reigns over the debauchery. The scene is timeless – harkening back to days when the distinction between blues and country was hopelessly blurred."
How is that for an endorsement. Naturally, I searched YouTube but unfortunately found only a handful of amateur clips of Cotton playing on friends' porches, at house parties, and at chatty dive bars. Overlooking the obvious, I visited his website and MySpace page, where you can buy his studio releases -- which I plan on doing -- and listen to most of his catalog.
In any event, here is a clip of Cotton performing the Dixieland standard, "(Won't You Come Home) Bill Bailey." And pay no mind to the cockeyed hat and grunge-inspired attire; Cotton is legit. You can see it in his face and hear it in his voice. And while Derek Trucks may be the heir-apparent of the blues-throne amongst the younger generation, I like Cotton as the dark horse candidate.
Chris Cotton, "(Won't You Come Home) Bill Bailey"
Here was the song I hear today, "Louis Collins" -- another old blues standard: