Mississippi MacDonald – Heavy State Loving Blues
10 tracks – 42 minutes
Mississippi MacDonald has been playing guitar since he was eleven years old. While his prominent first name moniker would indicate a Southern US heritage, he is in fact from London, England. He cites the pivotal moment in his life as the night on November 27, 1991, when he saw Chuck Berry perform citing it as a “transformative experience”. He became obsessed with learning about the music that came from the southern US, so much so that he his constant reference to the southern state just led to his friends calling him Mississippi, his actual first name disappearing and not found in any of his biographies that I could locate.
His next step into the blues came in 2004 when he traveled to America for the SXSW music festival held in Austin, Texas. Soul blues surfaced as he heard Al Green’s Greatest Hits album and The Soul of O.V. Wright. His tours in America led him to meet many of the blues’ greats, including B.B. King, Pinetop Perkins, Otis Clay and many others.
His first album was released in England in 2014. With this current release, he has now eight albums. In England, he has received three British Blues Awards nominations and has charted #1 on UK’s Independent Blues Broadcaster’s Charts. His 2021 Do Right, Say Right album made the Top Ten list on many US publications’ lists last year, including my own annual list I prepare for the Kentuckiana Blues Society’s monthly newsletter.
His current band includes Phil Dearing on guitar and keyboards, Lucy Dearing providing backup vocals, Elliott Boughen on bass, and “Texas” Joe McRoury on drums. Phil Dearing also produced and arranged the album.
The album opens with a tale of “Howlin’ Wolf”, MacDonald’s guitar weaving its way through the song amid his deep baritone and Phil Dearing’s synth horns providing the accents. He notes that “When Howling Wolf came to play, they didn’t know what he was laying down.” offering a rebuke to the fans who could not understand what the Wolf was doing when he started.
The title song “Heavy State Loving Blues” speaks of having “too fast, too much” which includes fast cars and fast women in a deeply soulful blues number that his soul heroes would certainly have been comfortable with. Memphis’ Vaneese Thomas joins MacDonald for a fiery duet on “Blind Leading the Blind”, her gravelly vocals excellently matching his baritone.
On the soulful “Heading South”, he proclaims he is gone to Louisiana, noting that he “left her at 3 AM in the morning”. On “(I Ain’t Going to Lie) No More”, the horns and keyboards perfectly align with MacDonald’s pleading vocals as he tries to provide assurance to his love. The first cover song, O.V. Wright’s “I’ve Been Searching” from his 1973 Memphis Unlimited album, is Macdonald’s tribute to the soul great.
He advises on a beautiful slow ballad that “I’ll Understand” if his lover who left him would just come back. The second cover song, Zack Logan’s country song “Trouble Doing the Right Thing” is given a full blues treatment. On a swampy song, “The Devil Wants Repayment” for “all of the sins you done” and he notes the devil always gets his due “even at 99 years old”.
He concludes with a tribute to Albert Collins on “Blues for Albert” offering Collins’ styled riffs. MacDonald’s guitar constantly soars with slow, tasteful licks. A brief spoken story of his own background and how a Collins’ record completely changed his life fills in the mostly instrumental cut.
Mississippi MacDonald has very capably demonstrated that he is a next generation blues man carrying on the soul blues traditions of his predecessors.