Mississippi Heat – Warning Shot
Delmark – 2014
16 tracks; 64 minutes
Mississippi Heat returns with a new album and it’s an outstanding contribution to their catalogue. As ever, leader Pierre Lacoque is at the heart of things with nine compositions and his distinctive harp playing. Also on board are long-serving vocalist Inetta Visor and drummer Kenny Smith, both of whom contribute a song. Andrew ‘Blaze’ Thomas is on seven cuts on durms. Giles Corey returns on guitar, aided by Carl Weathersby on two cuts and Michael Dotson who plays and sings on the three songs he wrote for the album. Newcomers Neal O’Hara on keys and Brian Quinn on bass are solid throughout, Ruben Alvarez adds latin percussion to three tracks and backing vocals come from Mae Koen, Diane Madison and Nanette Frank. The extra ingredient on this album is the presence of Sax Gordon Beadle on several cuts, the horn parts definitely adding to the overall excitement of the album.
For anyone who is unfamiliar with what MH is all about, just listen to the first three tracks, all written by Pierre. Opener “Sweet Poison” finds Inetta singing of “dealing with what is real, your love is like sweet poison and I don’t like the way it feels” over an Elmore James slide riff, Sax Gordon providing a second riff on his horn and Pierre adding some fine colour on harp.
“Alley Cat Boogie” is a frantic rocker with Neal’s piano featured strongly alongside Pierre’s harp and a real old-fashioned ‘yakkety sax’ break from Gordon– a track that you simply cannot stay still to! MH has always enjoyed a dimension of Caribbean lilt in their music and “Come To Mama” provides that courtesy of Neal’s organ and Ruben’s percussion, Pierre and Gordon taking short solos to add further to this swaying party of a song.
The first song from outside the band is Brook Benton’s “I Don’t Know” (previously recorded by Ruth Brown and Billy Eckstine), a smooth blues ballad that lets us hear Inetta’s lovely voice close up with light accompaniment. The other cover is a harmonica feature for Pierre in a re-working of Hank Williams’ “Your Cheating Heart” – well, Brother Ray did it so why not MH?
The three Michael Dotson songs all feature his rumbling guitar and vocals: “Swingy Dingy Baby” is a rocker with some fine harp from Pierre, “Yeah Now Baby” has a strong Howling Wolf core riff and “Evaporated Blues” is a slow blues. Inetta’s song “A Part Of Something Special” is a full production with horns, backing vocals and a celebration of being part of a relationship “being able to give and receive love”, former MH Lead guitarist Carl Weathersby providing a short reminder of what an excellent player he is and Gordon again soloing to good effect. Kenny’s song “What Cha Say?” has Pierre’s harp making an opening statement before Kenny sings in classic slow blues style over some fine slide guitar from Giles.
The remaining songs are all Pierre’s and provide an impressively wide range of styles for the band. “Working Man” is an uptempo number to close the album in sprightly style, Inetta singing of her hard-working partner who “gets up every morning to earn a living the best he can”.
Title cut “Warning Shot” is a mid-paced tune with lots of harmony b/v’s in support of Inetta’s lead, Neal’s warm organ solo providing a launch pad for Carl Weathersby’s stinging, fast-fingered guitar. “Birthday Song” effectively re-works the standard ‘Happy Birthday’ refrain into a Latin-edged concoction with Giles’ Santana-style solo sitting comfortably in the centre of the song. “Nowhere To Go” is a classic shuffle with Neal, Giles and Pierre taking solos behind another excellent vocal from Inetta and “Too Sad To Wipe My Tears” is a stripped-down country blues.
Leaving perhaps the best to last “Recession Blues” finds Inetta hoping that her lover is still as strongly in love with her as before the recession bit hard on everyone. Another full production, this one again finds Giles in latin mood in his solo before Pierre adds another telling harp contribution. Meanwhile Ruben’s latin percussion adds to the stirring rhythms and Gordon’s background role on sax should not be ignored.
Overall this is an extremely strong album and comes very highly recommended for both the range and quality of the material and musicianship.