Album Reviews

Mississippi Heat

Cab Driving Man

Artist:     Mississippi Heat

Album:     Cab Driving Man

Label:     Delmark

Release Date:     10/21/2016

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It’s hard to believe that Pierre Lacoque, harmonica player for Mississippi Heat, has been a bandleader for traditional Chicago blues for 25 years already. With an evolving cast of members and guests, his band has released their twelfth album, the sixth on Delmark. Consider these names of core band members or guests that have sat in with the band during this time: John Primer, Carl Weathersby, Billy Flynn, Kenny Smith, and Bob Stroger, to name just some. Over the past two albums, including 2014’s highly successful Warning Shot, the band now cooks with a core group of players that includes Pierre, vocalist Inetta Visor, guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Michael Dotson and the rhythm section of Brian Quinn on bass and Terrence Williams on drums. Add to that group Giles Corey on guitar, Sax Gordon on tenor and baritone saxes and keyboardists Chris ‘Hambone” Cameron and Sumito Ariyo. Others guest on select tracks for over one hour of music across 16 tunes, 11 of which are originals.

Pierre’s title track is inspired musically by the legendary Cab Calloway with its minor key, cabaret style. Although Calloway is more often associated with New York and Hollywood, he did attend college in Chicago, and more than enjoyed Chicago’s night life. Calloway’s last major acting role came in the film Blues Brothers.  The film had a cameo appearance from harmonica player Big Walter Horton, and it was a 1969 University of Chicago concert by Horton that inspired Lacoque to ultimately become a harmonica player and dedicate his career to the blues. Lacoque says there a story behind every one of his songs befitting his “day job” as a licensed clinical psychologist. Not many other males would pen a song about abuse from a female perspective or unresolved family issues. Musically, in addition to that Cotton Club Calloway sound, there’s a smattering of New Orleans, boogie- woogie, Latin beats, R&B, as well as Delta echoes of Robert Nighthawk and Robert Lockwood, Jr.

Lead singer Inetta Visor presents passionate vocals on 12 songs, including two covers, “Don’t Mess Up a Good Thing,” associated with Fontella Bass and Bobby McClure, duetting with Giles Corey, and “Smooth Operator,” notably  recorded by Sarah Vaughan. Michael Dotson takes his turn on three tunes, and the band closes with an instrumental. The chemistry among the players enables them to seamlessly embrace numerous styles, which in the end, are just tweaks to a traditional Chicago blues sound which carries the album. Pierre says, “An album is a passport, it gives you the opportunity to keep growing and traveling.”    Mississippi Heat tours often. Catch them live if you can, because they remain as dynamic as ever.

-Jim Hynes

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