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All-Star Tribute to Blues Legend James Cotton

Thursday, December 6 at 8:00 p.m.
Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River

Gotta read the review by JAY MILLER, Herald News Fall River, MA


Venue Information -> HERE

  Check out the James Cotton Tribute archive HERE.


Vocals / Harmonica

jmWhen blues legend James Montgomery plays the harmonica, he "brings it on home". Whether it's recording with Kid Rock, sitting in with Gregg Allman, or fronting his hot band of thirty years, Montgomery plays with authority. While growing up in Detroit he learned first-hand from the masters - James Cotton, John Lee Hooker, and Jr. Wells - at the legendary "Chessmate." Over the years, he's carried on in the tradition and continues to be a vital presence in Blues as one of the most dynamic performers on the scene.

In 1970, while attending Boston University, Montgomery formed the James Montgomery Band. His inimitable (oh yeah, he majored in English) harmonica playing combined with his incredibly energetic live shows led to the band's quick ascension on the New England music scene. Within two years, the James Montgomery band was among the hottest acts in Boston along with J. Geils and Aerosmith, and they were quickly signed to a multi-album deal with Capricorn Records.

Since that time, James has recorded six albums. His first, "First Time Out" has been remastered and re-released by MRG/Capricorn. Other include "James Montgomery Band" on Island Records which was number nine on Billboard's national playlist, "Duck Fever" with members of the David Letterman Band, "Live Trax," with the Uptown Horns (the Rolling Stones' horn section), and his release on Tone-Cool, "The Oven Is On."

Montgomery has toured with many major artists, including Aerosmith, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, the Allman Brothers, Steve Miller and others. He has jammed on stage with B.B.King, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Jr. Wells, James Cotton, Charlie Daniels, Bonnie Raitt, Greg Allman, Laverne Baker, Patti LaBelle, and Peter Wolf among others, including an impromptu session with Mick Jagger at New York's "Trax".

Link to the official James Montgomery site

Cheryl Arena


jmCheryl Arena has been a regular at The Reel Blues Festival events and what a knockout she is. WINNER of The 2009, 2013 & 2015 Blues Audience Newsletter Reader’s Poll for “Most Outstanding Harmonica Player” Sizzling, sultry, and full of energy Cheryl Arena is a blues powerhouse. Years on the blues scene have developed Cheryl’s chops as has her endless hours shedding behind the wheel of her stretch limo waiting for clients to emerge from parties. She is known on stages from Clarksdale Mississippi to Ventura California as an ultimate blues warrior.

Link to the official Cheryl Arena site


Rick Esterin


jm With his wily and unforgettable original songs and his hipster, street-smart vocals, no one on the blues scene writes or sings like Rick Estrin. No one looks like him either, as Estrin is always dressed to the nines, sporting his trademark pencil-line mustache and pompadour haircut. DownBeat says, “Rick Estrin sings and writes songs like the brightest wiseguy in all of bluesland and blows harmonica as if he learned at the knee of Little Walter.” Live, the band delivers a high-energy show capable of bringing any audience to its feet. According to Living Blues magazine, they play “captivating, powerful blues and roots rock with a wickedly cool and otherworldly twist on tradition...intelligently conceived and executed...hugely entertaining.”
Estrin’s flashing harmonica solos, quick wit and signature look and Andersen’s off-the-cuff guitar acrobatics add even more spontaneous fun to their live performances. “People don’t go out to see people who look like themselves,” says Estrin. “They want to see something special. I was schooled to be a showman.We know how to put on a show.”
Rick Estrin & the Nightcats, won the highly coveted 2018 Band of the Year award. Estrin has written songs for Koko Taylor, Robert Cray and John Hammond. Blues Revue says, “Estrin has created some of the finest blues songs of any artist on the planet. His carefully wrought lyrics penetrate human weakness with the precision of a boxer, though more often than not, he chooses to leave you laughing after the blow’s been struck.”
After 30 years and nine albums, Rick took over leadership of Baty’s Nightcats. The new band charged out of the gate with Twisted in 2009, One Wrong Turn in 2012 and You Asked For It...Live! in 2014.

Link to the official_Rick Esterin site


Mark Hummel


jmMark Hummel started playing harmonica in 1970 and is considered one of the premier blues harmonica players of his generation. Thanks to over thirty recordings since 1985, including the Grammy nominated 2013 release Blind Pig recording Remembering Little Walter (part of the Blues Harmonica Blowout CD series). Mark Hummel's Blues Harmonica Blowout™ started in 1991 and have featured every major legend (Mayall, Musselwhite, Cotton, etc.) on blues harp as well as almost every player of note on the instrument - a who's who of players. Hummel is a true Blues Survivor. Along the way, he has crafted his own trademark harmonica sound - a subtle combination of tone, phrasing and attack combined with a strong sense of swing. Mark has been with Electro Fi Records since 2000, releasing five CDs. Born in New Haven, CT but raised in Los Angeles till he graduated high school. Mark moved to the Berkeley at age 18 to pursue a career in blues music, where he felt the music was taken more seriously. Mark started the Blues Survivors in 1977 with Mississippi Johnny Waters. By 1984 Hummel began a life of non- stop touring of the US, Canada and overseas, which he still continues at least 130-150 days out of each year. Hummel has toured or recorded with blues legends Charles Brown, Charlie Musselwhite, Lowell Fulson, Billy Boy Arnold, Carey Bell, Lazy Lester, Brownie McGhee, Eddie Taylor, Luther Tucker and Jimmy Rogers.

Link to the official_Mark Hummel site


Charles Mack

Bass | Vocals

jmOne of Seattle's finest bands period... featuring Chicago bassman, Charles Mack on vocals too, plus Maurice Bailey on drums, Joel Tipke on guitar and Eric Robert on keys

Link to the official Charles Mack site


Bob Margolin


jmBoston born in 1949, Bob, inspired by Chuck Berry, started playing guitar at age 15 and immediately started performing in local rock and blues bands. Margolin was hired by Muddy Waters in 1973, in the post Cotton years. Muddy brought Margolin with him to special shows and recordings, when he sometimes didn’t use his whole band, to give him a familiar sound when working with other musicians. In 1975, they recorded Grammy Award-winning “Muddy Waters Woodstock Album,” Muddy’s last for Chess Records, which featured Paul Butterfield and Levon Helm and Garth Hudson from The Band. In ‘76, Muddy brought Margolin with him to San Francisco to perform at The Band’s “Last Waltz” concert. Margolin also played on the four albums that Muddy recorded for Blue Sky Records, which were produced by Johnny. Three of those albums won Grammy Awards. Margolin left Muddy’s band in 1980 and formed his own band. He relocated to Washington, DC then Blacksburg, Virginia — eventually winding up North Carolina in 1989. “All through the ‘80s I ran up and down the highways, mostly in Virginia and North Carolina. In 1989, he recorded his first solo album “The Old School” for Powerhouse Records and “Chicago Blues”, released in ‘91, featured songs from three different recording sessions. In 1993, Margolin signed with Alligator Records and released his third solo album, “Down In The Alley.” Margolin appeared on a Kennedy Center Tribute to Muddy Waters in 1997. In 2016, Bob won two Blues Blast Magazine Awards, one as Best Male Blues Artist, and one for Best Traditional Blues Album for his new album, “My Road.”

Link to the official Bob Margolin site


Rico McFarland


jmFor years, Rico McFarland played guitar for such luminous blues artists as James Cotton and Lucky Peterson, before finally launching his solo career in 2001 to much acclaim. Born on March 5, 1960, the Chicago guitarist worked with countless blues artists over the years: Albert King, Otis Clay, Syl Johnson, Artie White, Kinsey Report, and more. He is perhaps best known for working with Cotton and Peterson, however. McFarland recorded his solo debut album, Tired of Being Alone, for Evidence Records in 2001 with a large roster of guests, including vocalists Otis Clay, Syl Johnson, Billy Branch, and Teela. The album won much acclaim and earned McFarland a 2002 W.C. Handy nomination for Best New Artist of the Year.

Link to the official Rico McFarland site


Kenny Neal


jm One of the strongest modern proponents of Baton Rouge swamp blues, Kenny Neal is a second-generation southern Louisiana bluesman drenched in the region's blues tradition and imaginative enough to steer it in fresh directions. Born on October 14, 1957 in New Orleans Kenny at age 13 was playing in his father's band, and at 17, landed a job playing bass for Buddy Guy. The guitarist recruited some of his talented siblings to form the Neal Brothers Blues Band up in Toronto (brother Noel later played bass behind James Cotton; five other Neal brothers also play in various bands) before returning stateside. In 1987, Kenny Neal cut his debut, an updated swamp feast initially released by Kingsnake Records as “Bio on the Bayou.” The next year, Alligator Records signed Neal and reissued the debut under the title “Big News from Baton Rouge!!” Neal's sizzling guitar work, sturdy harp, and gravelly, aged-beyond-his-years vocals served him well, and he cut four albums for Alligator Records between 1989 and 1994. An acclaimed 1991 stint on Broadway in “Mule Bone” found him performing acoustic versions of Langston Hughes' poetry set to music by Taj Mahal. In 1998, Neal moved to jazz-based Telarc Records, releasing three albums for the label: Blues Fallin' Down Like Rain (1998), What You Got (2000), and One Step Closer (2001). In the new millennium, Neal recorded sets for a variety of independent labels, including Easy Meeting (a 2003 collaboration with Billy Branch), Double Take (2004, a one-shot return to Alligator), and A Tribute to Slim Harpo and Raful Neal (released in 2005 for True Life Entertainment). Three years later, Neal hooked up with Blind Pig Records and released Let Life Flow in 2008, once again incorporating his gritty Louisiana roots with a sophisticated Chicago/Memphis soul approach. A second Blind Pig release, Hooked on Your Love, appeared two years later in 2010.

Link to the official_Kenny Neal site


Darrell Nulisch


jmGrowing up in Dallas, Darrell Nulisch, “My Dad and Mom used to take me to these honky tonks sometimes when there would be live bands on Sunday afternoons,” he recalls. Jimmy McCracklin and Freddie King were early favorites, along with local kid Jimmie Vaughan. “One of his first bands, the Chessmen, used to practice down in the park about three blocks from my house,” says Nulisch. “I would ride my bicycle down and watch those guys play.”
Little Darrell began singing full-time in 1978 as one of the founding members of Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets. Their 1981 recording, Talk to You by Hand. After spending seven years as front man for the Rockets (also appearing on 1985’s She Knocks Me Out!), Nulisch put in a year with Dallas-based Mike Morgan and the Crawl before joining forces in 1987 with Boston-based Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters. He cut two albums as their front man (Soul Searchin’ and Peace Of Mind) before leaving in 1990 to form his own band, Texas Heat (Business as Usual). “I never tried to beat anybody over the head with my stuff,” says Nulisch of his relaxed, emotionally rich style. “You have to be who you are and just hope that people catch on to what it is.” Nulisch spent a lot his time on the road as guest vocalist with Grammy-winning Chicago blues harmonica legend James Cotton. He’s recorded vocals for ex-Howlin’ Wolf guitarist Hubert Sumlin, Boston pianist David Maxwell, and Detroit guitarist Kenny Parker. But his roots lie squarely in Lone Star soil.

Link to the official_Darrell Nulsich site


Christine Ohlman


jmThis queen of blue-eyed rock n’ soul, Christine grew up loving equally the sweetness of a Memphis horn line and the raunch of an electric guitar riff, whether played by Muddy Waters, Keith Richards, or Pop Staples,picking up a guitar and forging a career as a songwriter in the process. She’s the current, long-time vocalist with the Saturday Night Live Band, whose latest CD, The Deep End, features special guests/duet partners Ian Hunter, Dion DiMucci, and Marshall Crenshaw, plus Levon Helm, GE Smith, Andy York, Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, Catherine Russell, Big Al Anderson, and others. Ohlman topped the Alternate’s Readers’ Poll as top Americana vocalist. In 2017, she was inducted into the National Blues Hall of Fame of American Heritage International. She appears on Grammy nominees A Tribute To Howlin’ Wolf (with Taj Mahal and Lucinda Williams) and Charlie Musselwhite’s One Night In America (with Marty Stuart);. A musicologist of note, Ohlman is a cover-story-writing contributor to Elmore Magazine, and worked with Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder & others on the Rhythm & Blues Foundation Awards.

Link to the official Christine Ohlman site


Paul Oscher

Harmonica | Guitar

jmPaul Oscher is a blues legend. A blues singer and multi-instrumentalist (harmonica, guitar and piano), who while still in his teens, became the first Caucasian member of the great Muddy Waters Blues Band (1967-1971) taking over for the departing James Cotton. Paul lived in Muddy’s house on Chicago’s South Side and shared the basement with blues piano player Otis Spann. Paul played the Chitlin’ Circuit and recorded with Muddy for the legendary Chess Records Company. He traveled the world with Muddy. Besides Muddy, he has performed and/or recorded with T-Bone Walker, Otis Spann, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, Johnny Young, Johnny CopeIand, Big Joe Turner, Louisiana Red, Big Mama Thornton, Victoria Spivey and many others. As Muddy Waters harp player, Paul Oscher inspired many of tonights performers including Rick Estrin and Jerry Portnoy. Paul is the real deal, playing harmonica, guitar and singing on Hubert Sumlin's Grammy Nominated Album, "About Them Shoes," along with Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, and Levon Helm. In 2006 he collaborated with Mos Def and recorded the song "Bed Stuy Parade and Funeral March"and Keb Mo' in 2008 on the soundtrack of the film about the Blues, "Who Do You Love," and also he recorded on Keb Mo's "Suitcase Album.” Paul has won two Handy Blues Music Awards and has 9 Blues Music Award nominations. His latest recording, “Bet On The Blues,” was nominated for three Blues Music Awards. Paul has also appeared in many documentaries and books about the blues and is now in the process of writing his own book about his life in the blues.

Link to the official_Paul Oscher site


Jerry Portnoy


jmJerry Portnoy was born in 1943 and grew up in the blues-rich atmosphere of Chicago's famous Maxwell Street Market during the golden age of Chicago Blues. He began his professional career in the late 60s and since that time has performed, live and on television, for millions of people around the world.
During a career that includes six years as a member of the fabled Muddy Waters Blues Band, another six as leader of the Legendary Blues Band, four years at the head of his own band The Streamliners, and another four as a featured member of the Eric Clapton Band, his touring schedule has carried him to every state in the union and twenty-eight foreign countries on six continents, with performances at the White House, Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, the Smithsonian, London's Royal Albert Hall, and at major jazz festivals worldwide, including the Newport Jazz Festival, the Montreaux Jazz Festival, the Warsaw International Jazz Jamboree, the Hawaii Pacific Jazz and Music Fair, and the Grande Parade du Jazz in Nice, France.

Jerry has played on several Grammy Award-winning albums while recording with a wide variety of artists, and was a Grammy Award nominee in 1997 for his work with the Muddy Waters Tribute Band. Television credits include appearances on Saturday Night Live, Soundstage, MTV, VH1, and the Disney Channel, as well as writing and performing original music for Sesame Street. In addition, he has lectured at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, and his definitive 3/CD instructional package, Jerry Portnoy's Blues Harmonica Masterclass, is widely regarded as the premier teaching tool for those wishing to learn the instrument. Jerry Portnoy now makes his home outside Boston, Massachusetts.

Link to the official Jerry Portnoy site


Kyle Rowland


jmKyle Edward Rowland was born on June 8, 1993 in Sacramento, California. When he was just a baby, his father put a harmonica in his crib. His first memories of playing the harmonica are when he was 10 years old, his father heard harmonica music coming from the front yard. He went outside and was amazed to find his son playing the Blues. In May of 2004, at the age of 10, Kyle sat up front during the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee playing along with the band. Once Mick Martin of The Blues Rockers, heard the child he asked him to join the band on stage. Shortly after the festival, Kyle began taking lessons from Mick. Kyle feels privileged to be learning from Mick, known as one of the best blues harmonica players in Northern California.
Since 2004, Kyle has befriended many blues legends including James Cotton, Hubert Sumlin, Matt "Guitar" Murphy, John Mayall, Paul Oscher, Lazy Lester, Anson Funderburgh, Norton Buffalo, Roy Rogers,, Jerry Martini (founding member of Sly & The Family Stone, and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductee), John Juke Logan, Frankie Lee, Barry (The Fish) Melton from Country Joe and the Fish, Nick Gravenites from Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Frank Hannon from Tesla, Angela Strehli, Zakiya Hooker, John Lee Hooker Jr., Mark Hummel, Rick Estrin, Kim WIlson, Kenny Neal, Billy "Boy" Arnold, Lurrie Bell, James Harmon, Charlie Musselwhite, John Nemeth and Rusty Zinn and many others.
Kyle can be found playing with the 'The Kyle Rowland Blues Band', which is comprised of experienced adults with more than 30 years of musical experience each. Kyle released his first CD in Oct 2009 titled, 'Kyle Rowland, Messin’ with the Kid, a tribute to my blues heroes. In 2012 he recorded his second album, this time with his own band, titled, 'High Rollin' with Kyle Rowland'. Produced by Rick Estrin, Kyle composed and wrote the majority of the songs. Including "A Mothers True Love", a tribute to his late mother. In 2013 he self-produced his third record "Alone in my Dark Room" featuring only guitar, harmonica, and vocals. He has also received 'the blues harmonica player of the year, and blues new artist of the year' in 2009 from the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame Award show. Kyle’s joy of performing and love of the audience's response are visible in his showmanship. He is a natural, and thoroughly enjoys playing the harmonica.

Link to the official Kyle Rowland site


Paul Rishell and Annie Raines

Guitar; Harmonic; Vocals

jmFor 25 years Paul Rishell & Annie Raines have been hailed as one of the world’s best blues duos. They have recorded 6 albums together including the W.C. Handy Award-winning Moving to the Country (2000), and received numerous award nominations from the Blues Foundation. They have performed and recorded with John Sebastian, Susan Tedeschi, Pinetop Perkins and Rory Block. They have opened for Ray Chares, Dr. John, and Little Feat, and performed on international radio and TV shows including Late Night with Conan O’Brien and A Prairie Home Companion. They continue to perform American roots music and their own compositions at festivals, concert halls, and clubs all over the world. As a working team, Paul and Annie have racked up hundreds of thousands of miles on the road in the U.S. and Europe, collaborated on original songs, and released the Blues Foundation Award nominated TALKING GUITAR , I WANT YOU TO KNOW (Tone-Cool/Artemis 1996), MOVING TO THE COUNTRY (2000), the W.C. Handy Award winner for Acoustic Blues Album of the Year, and GOIN’ HOME (2004), which was nominated for two Handy Awards.

Link to the official Paul Rishell and Annie Raines site


Curtis Salgado

Harmonica | Vocals

jmCurtis Salgado, by his early 20s, he was already making a name for himself on Eugene, Oregon’s bar scene with his band The Nighthawks, and later as co-leader of The Robert Cray Band. Salgado developed as a player and singer of remarkable depth, with vocal and musical influences including Otis Redding, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, etc. NPR calls him “a blues icon” with a “huge voice.” In 1977, Salgado met actor John Belushi while the comedian was filming Animal House. Salgado and Belushi spent hours playing old records, with Belushi soaking up the music like a sponge. This new blues knowledge created the The Blues Brothers. After leaving The Robert Cray Band, he fronted Roomful Of Blues, singing and touring with them from 1984 through 1986. Forming his own band, he released the first of his ten solo albums in 1991. Salgado joined Alligator Records in 2012, debuting with the award-winning, critically acclaimed Soul Shot in 2012 followed by The Beautiful Lowdown in 2016. Salgado won three 2013 Blues Music. In 2017 Salgado won 3 Blues Music Awards: Soul Blues Album Of The Year for The Beautiful Lowdown, Song Of The Year for Walk A Mile In My Blues and Soul Blues Male Artist Of The Year.

Link to the official Curtis Salgado site




jmThe Narrows Center for the Arts was founded in 1995 for the promotion and enjoyment of the visual and performing arts. The Narrows, a fully accessible venue, is comprised of two visual art galleries, a performance theater and visual artist studios.

Over 20 years ago, the Narrows Center started as a 1,500 s.f. exhibition space located where the North and South Watuppa Ponds come together; a waterway the locals refer to as ‘the Narrows.’  Thanks to generous community support and strong stewardship, the Narrows Center has since grown into a 15,000 s.f. arts venue located on the 3rd floor of a former American Printing Company mill building, which in the early 20th century was part of one of the largest textile operations in the world.  The space, with it’s high ceilings and spectacular views of Mount Hope Bay and Battleship Cove, has turned out to be the ideal acoustic and visual backdrop for what has come to be known as a regional destination for the visual and performing arts. Today, the elegant architectural design of the space includes an expansive performance area, working artists’ studios, two art galleries and the Narrows Café, which complete the acclaimed Narrows Center for the Arts.

The Narrows Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization continuing to present exciting ways to engage the public, host one-of-a-kind musical guests and showcase unique works of art. Offering educational arts programming, local school tours and the free annual Narrows Arts Festival, the Narrows proudly presents an ever-growing access and fellowship in the arts.


Our mission at the Narrows Center for the Arts is to present music that matters and art that inspires, to engage and educate people of all ages in Fall River and the southern New England area, and to partner with other like-minded local and regional organizations as a hub for culture and the arts.


Attendees are welcome to bring their own food, drink and alcohol to all events in bags and small coolers that will fit under your chair. We sell fresh brewed Coastal Roasters coffee at all of our events along with teas, soda, bottled water and pre-packaged snacks. On most nights we also serve freshly baked desserts.


The Narrows provides a fun, relaxed and welcoming environment for performer and audience alike where musicians can connect to those who appreciate their work. Rowdies or those who detract from the ability of those around them to enjoy the show will be asked to leave.


There is on-street parking available on Anawan Street (our side) and some parking on Water Street. Street parking is not metered but take notice to posted parking restrictions during the Route 79 construction project. There is also parking available behind our building.


The Westport/Fall River Hampton Inn at 53 Old Bedford Road in Westport, MA offers a 15% discount to Narrows Center concert attendees. Ask the Hampton Inn front desk for the “Narrows rate” when booking your hotel rooms.


Narrows Center for the Arts, 16 Anawan Street, Fall River MA 02721


Box Office and Gallery hours are WEDNESDAY through SATURDAY, NOON – 5:00 P.M.



The show on December 6 will be recorded for a documentary about James Cotton, being produced by The Reel Blues Fest in conjunction with Northern Light Productions, scheduled for release in 2019.  The film, They All Stood Up, is a feature documentary that traces Cotton’s career, one that began at 9 and continued for more than 70 years until his death at age 81.




photos coming after the event
copyright 2009 The Reel Blues Fest, Inc.
all rights reserved


The Reel Blues Fest, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping musicians receive access to medical care and to supporting the work of independent filmmakers. Proceeds from events will be distributed to eligible 501 (C) (3) organizations pursuant to the guidelines established by The Reel Blues Fest, Inc.

For more information call 508-495-FILM
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