Cotton’s always favored a healthy dose of funk in his blues, and his rhythm section (bassist Noel and drummer Kenny Neal Jr., both members of an extended and esteemed musical clan), is an astonishingly supple yet muscular machine. (Check out the slippery bass that underpins “How Blue Can You Get?”). Guitarists Allen and Tom Holland are an ideal tag team, trading leads and rhythm with instinctive ease. Allen handles most of the vocals, with Holland stepping up on “Sad Sad Day.” They’re both sturdy and workmanlike, though Allen definitely deserves the lion’s share; there are a few shining moments when he sounds a bit like B.B. King (and that’s a very good thing!).
Although he remains a giant on the harmonica, Giant isn’t overly harp-centric, as the sound here is that of a working band, with Cotton’s harp integral to the arrangements, yet never overpowering the song itself. His work has always been about tricky filigrees and sharp blasts that accent a tune. It’s the sheer expressiveness of his harmonica that matters, the subtle runs and quicksilver fills that embellish the song. And both his tone and approach remain utterly distinctive.
A giant indeed, Cotton is that rarest of harmonica players, an artist with an instantly identifiable sound, tempered with the musical wisdom of a lifetime’s immersion in the blues.
Given his age, stature, and health, it would be understandable if Cotton were to rest a bit, to take a reflective approach in keeping with his years of experience. Instead, Giant delivers the blues in all its sweaty, dangerous glory–blues for all the right reasons, vital, urgent and bursting with life and feel, the most important element of all–which takes priority over technical but sterile perfection. He may have seen and done it all by now, but Cotton’s still making music from the heart, aimed straight at the soul.
Very highly recommended!