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At 77, James Cotton still has the blues -- and that's a good thing

@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

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At 77, and with 60 years of recording behind him, James Cotton certainly enjoys national treasure status. But the Chicago bluesman's new album, "Cotton Mouth Man," shows that he's hardly ready to retire.

But it does dip into Cotton's past a bit, with a moving vocal performance on the closing track, "Bonnie Blue," which is named after the Mississippi plantation where he was raised.

"That was where I was born in Tunica, and I wanted people to know about it," explains Cotton, who's played with Muddy Waters and Bobby Blue Bland but whose singing has been limited since he contracted throat cancer during the mid-90s. "I figured I should try (to sing) again. It's not the same voice I used to have, but this song felt like it would sound best coming from my voice."

"Cotton Mouth Man" also features a variety of friends and admirers as special guests, including Gregg Allman, Joe Bonamassa, Ruthie Foster, Warren Haynes, Keb' Mo' and Delbert McClinton.

"I've heard all of them sing, and I know about every one of them," Cotton says. "I've admired their work for years and I have fun with all of them. They've been around a long time, just like me, and they really wanted to do it.

"I'm really thankful for all of them for stepping in and helping out. I think everybody was so into this album and worked really hard on it, and we all had a good time."

James Cotton performs at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 11, at Callahan's Music Hall, 2015 South Blvd., Auburn Hills. Tickets are $40-$55. Call 248-858-9508 or visit www.atcallahans.com.

Web Site: www.atcallahans.com

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