Ever wonder what happened to the Cotton Brothers?
The quartet whose independently recorded single, “Remember Me, O Lord,” received so much attention in the early 1960s (including from Otis Redding) that the group landed a recording contract with Don Robey’s Song Bird label?
Guess what: the Cotton Brothers are still active…still singing…still in Macon, Georgia, but the Cotton Family is a little bigger now.
And the proof is in the jewel box. That is, in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., the Cotton Family banded together to create a reunion-style CD that pays tribute to those who lost their lives in the attacks, as well as to the family matriarch and patriarch, Helen and Pop Cotton. It’s called 100% Cotton: The Family Pack Volume 1.
The album covers a variety of gospel sounds, traditional to contemporary. In addition to contributions by the Cotton Brothers as a collective, husband-and-wife team James & Faye Cotton, and Terrence Cotton “The Psalmist” offer their talents to the project, which is in some ways similar to the Barnes Family Reunion presentations, though not quite as extensive.
“Remember Me” is featured near the beginning of the CD to set the mood. The combination of old-school doo-wops and modern instrumentation of synth, bass and drums sounds straight out of a T.J. Lubinsky PBS oldies special. Faye, Tommy and Terrence trade leads, Terrence bringing it home with an acutely urgent vocal.
James Cotton’s “The Last Days” takes on a special poignancy because in 2001, at the time of this recording, it felt like the last days were just beyond the horizon.
“The Hebrew Boys” is a new reading of the Norfleet Brothers’ 1963 “Shadrack,” but with a western “Rawhide” beat, giving me pause to imagine Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego riding out of the fiery furnace together on horseback, a la the opening scene from “Bonanza.” (I have such a warped sense of humor…)
The finest track on the CD comes from the latest iteration of the Cotton Brothers. “Rock Me Jesus,” with lead vocals by Tommy Cotton, is a classic quartet uptempo song reminiscent of the group’s 1960s recordings and programs. A whole CD of hard-driving performances like this one would simply be outstanding.
A gospel medley dedicated to Mom and Pop Cotton runs through a hymnbook of congregational songs and hymns, many of them quartet standards, which makes sense given the Cotton Brothers’ long history in the genre.
This isn’t the only post-Song Bird project the Cotton Brothers have released. In 1985, the group recorded Having Church in Georgia, which includes the perennial radio favorite “Another New Year.”
It’s great to know that groups who sang on those little records with the big hole are still with us and still singing the glory down.
Two of Four Stars