All the business consulting wizards say the #1 thing for a business to be successful is constancy of purpose. I’d wager that applies to success in any field. If you have a constant purpose, a dependable course of action, or a great team of players who remain on the same page year after year then guess what? You will become and remain a winner!
Well, that’s what Pierre Lacocque and Mississippi Heat have done. The band has gotten industry attention several times. They won the Blues Blast Music Award for Best Traditional Blues Album in 2010 for Let’s Live It Up. Then they put together a band together in 2014 that had one of their most successful albums ever in Warning Shot. The CD charted immediately and remained #1 on Living Blues charts for five months in a row and Mississippi Heat won Band Of The Year in the 2015 Blues Blast Awards! So rather than play the continual sideman to a revolving door of blues stars that graced the band, Pierre stabilized the lineup to give the band consistency. The immensely talented and soulful Inetta Visor remains the lead singer as she has for a long time. Michael Dotson writes some songs and plays some mean guitar, challenging Lacoque to play his harp on a superior plain. The backline of Brian Quinn and Terrence Williams on bass and drums are experienced and know what to expect from each other. Kenny Smith plays the drums on 3 cuts but has basically moved on to the demands of touring, so Brian and Terrence have developed timing and feeling for each other’s playing. Constancy of purpose. And add a host of other great talent for fun and you have another great effort here!
Here we have 16 songs, 11 new ones from Pierre, 3 more new ones from Michael and two very cool covers. The title track takes inspiration from Cab Calloway, drawing on the vaudevillian cabaret style as Inetta gives a breathy and inspired performance. Lacocque blows some dirty harp that his hero Big Walter Horton would be proud of. The band shucks and jives tot eh beat which gets a cool addition from Ruben Alvarez on percussion and Sax Gordon on the horn. Pierre also penned the opener, a bright and sprightly blues called “Cupid Bound.” Visor’s vocals and Lacocque’s harp shine. Dotson also offers up a sweet solo later in the cut. Chris “Hambone” Cameron does a fine job on keys and Gordon’s horn add some nice punctuation to the song, too. “Flowers on My Tombstone” is some well done slow blues Pierre has written and the band stands up to the task, delivering another great performance. Dotson’s thoughtful solo is sweet up front and of course Pierre’s later on is also tasteful. Sumito Ariyo makes his first of two performances here and it is swell. “Icy Blue” is the next song of Pierre’s. It opens with some stinging guitar from Giles Corey with harp layered in well. Harp and guitar solos are big and luscious here as the song gives us a little funky blues to enjoy. Pierre’s “Life is Too Short” is a pleasant country porch sort of Chicago blues with an airy and light sound that adds variety to the mix.
“Rosalie” is another funky cut written by Lacocque. Quinn’s bass opens the piece and sets the tone here; he pretty much carries things on his strong bass line here. Visor offers a forthright delivery and Corey responds with equally forthright guitar work. Lacocque then joins the fray with a one-two harp punch on his solo. The mid tempo rocking “Luck of the Draw” is straight up Chicago blues; Lacocque delivers one winner after another and here we have Dave Specter on lead guitar adding some really good stuff to the mix. “Mama Kaila” is another airy and slow ballad that Lacocque wrote; he and Visor approach this with restraint. Dotson gives an equally touching solo that fits the mood. “Music Is My Life” is another winner where Pierre’s lyrics and music offer us some cool slow blues that the band plays right into. The piano here by Sumito Ariyo plays a big role to counter Lacocque’s harp and it works well. “Lonely Eyes” is a rhumba like cut where the band shows some more variety in another nice little cut written by Pierre. Organ, guitar and piano back the harp up here and then the piano also shares the spotlight. The last of Pierre’s songs close the set; “Hey Pipo!” is a bouncy instrumental with Lacocque and Cameron trading the lead. Everyone joins in the musical fun as they make a fine closing argument.
Dotson’s “That Late Night Stuff” is a driving and rocking blues that he also sings for us. Gordon’s sax plays a nice role here as the band moves the song along behind Dotson’s vocals. He then gives us a big and gritty solo followed immediately by a cool one by Pierre. “The Last Go Round” has a ZZ Top meets Muddy Water sort of feel to it in Dotson’s second of three cuts. Hot licks mixed with a sound that reminded me of “Trouble No More” and harp that Lacocque styles on Little Walter make this a gem. Mike also sings this one. Dotson’s last cut is a edgy “Can’t Get Me No Traction” where he again sings for us in his deep bass voice. Dotson’s style is more dirty and edgy and his cuts are equally excellent. The guitar and harp work here are pretty cool too.
I mentioned there were 2 covers. The old Gregg Allman solo standard (originally made famous by Fontella Bass and Bobby McClure) “Don’t Mess Up a Good Thing” has Giles Corey share the vocals in a duet with Inetta. His grit and approach are nice complements to Visor. His guitar is also sweet here (he’s on the whole album with some spot leads) with nice solo work here again. I loved the duet and overall approach here. “Smooth Operator” gained fame with Sarah Vaughn and Visor gives us another great performance to make it hers. Sax Gordon helps sell things with some excellent horn work and the percussive stuff by Alvarez is effective here, too. Well done by the entire band!
After 16 cuts I can honest say there are no duds here – all 16 are really well done and showcase the talents of the band and their friends. This is Mississippi Heat’s 12th album and 6th on Delmark, bringing passion and superb musicianship to the table time and again. Old school blues, funky and soulful sounds, rocking good music, a great boogie and swing and all sorts of other stuff blend together in this great new CD by Mississippi Heat. I enjoyed it and I am sure fans of the band, Chicago blues and the blues world in general will receive this album well- it’s a really good one! I have no hesitation here- go get it now!