It takes about 30 seconds of listening to Eddie Cotton
's debut CD, Live at the Alamo Theatre
, to realize that you're hearing a major talent, quite possibly the most exciting new blues musician to appear in decades.Cotton is a 31-year-old from near Jackson, Miss., who grew up in the Church of God in Christ, studied music theory at Jackson State University and learned the blues playing in the band of a local star named King Edward. In other words, Cotton's got roots. Now throw out all the preconceptions that might bring to mind, because he's not one of the loose-limbed Mississippi stylists you've heard on the Fat Possum label. The foundation of Cotton's music is rock-solid, in-the-pocket rhythm -- from his drummer and bass player, from any guest musicians who may be along for the ride (on this record, the band is augmented by keyboard players) and, especially, from his guitar. He absolutely smokes the groove on his guitar, clipping chords and riffs that could fire up dancers all by themselves. Cotton applies these grooves to carefully reconstructed standards from the blues repertoire. He reinvents Albert King's "Born Under a Bad Sign," Muddy Waters' "Same Thing," Howlin' Wolf's "Shake for Me," Hound Dog Taylor's "She 's Gone" and, most gloriously and spectacularly (for more than 16 minutes!), Little Milton's "Walkin' the Backstreets and Cryin'." His guitar solos are among the most inventive and original in any genre; he plays with a piercing tone and a stunning originality. As if that wasn't enough, Cotton can sing, too, with a sly, insinuating and downright pretty vocal approach.