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Mississippi Heat - Let’s Live it Up!

Delmark Records

14 tracks/60:13

On their third release for Delmark, Mississippi Heat offers up another recording of no-nonsense, 1950’s-style Chicago blues that packs quite a punch This veteran aggregation has a romping, stomping good time blasting through this collection of lively original tunes.

Piere Lacocque is still on-board as the leader, songwriter and ace harmonica player. The role of lead vocalist goes to Inetta Visor, whose powerful voice and commanding presence invigorate every track she appears on. Kenny Smith on drums and Stephen Howard on bass provide the solid rhythmic foundation. Giles Corey will certainly gain lots of new fans once people get a chance to hear his dynamic guitar playing on this disc. One of the first-call session players in Chicago, Christopher “Hambone” Cameron delights with his contributions on piano and Hammond B-3 organ. Add Carl Weathersby or John Primer on guitar and you have a potent blend of veteran musicians that prove there is still life in the aging tradition.

There are plenty of highlights including the title track, which opens the proceedings with a blast of energy with Visor shouting out this celebration of life as Corey, Weathersby and Lacocque trade solos at a lightning pace. Equally fine is “Peace Train”, with Visor delivering a rousing vocal with gospel intensity supported by Kay Reed, Mae Koen and Vanessa Holmes on backing vocals. Cameron impresses with some superb fills on the organ and Corey adds a short but very tasty solo.

Visor and Cameron co-wrote “She Died From a Broken Heart”, which should receive consideration when it comes time for nominations for song-of-the-year awards. Lacocque’s harp moans and cries in support of Visor’s haunting vocal while Weathersby brings things down to a slow-burn with some exquisite guitar picking. The Chicago Horns - Kenny Anderson on trumpet, Hank Ford on tenor sax, Bill McFarland on trombone and Sam Burkhardt on alto sax - appear on four songs, adding punch to the broken-heart tale “Another Sleepless Night”, that features another outstanding vocal from Visor. They also punctuate the driving tempo on “Don’t Cry For Me”. Weathersby evokes memories of his former boss, Albert King, by adopting the string-bending style and biting tone favored by King on “Been Good to You” and the lone cover on the disc, Sugar Pie DeSanto’s hit “I Want to Know”.

She is only on one cut but Rhonda Preston makes it clear that Visor isn’t the only woman around capable of singing the down-home blues. She manages to wring every bit of emotion she can out of the cheating tale of “Daggers and Tears”. Primer steps into the spotlight on three tracks - his laidback vocal style offering a nice change of pace to the women. He gives his guitar fretboard a serious workout on “Betty Sue” and his original composition, “I Got the News Today”, typifies the Mississippi Heat approach - take a standard blues progression, play it like it’s never been done before and make it fun. The closing tune, “Until We Meet Again” gives Cameron a chance to stretch out on the organ and he takes full advantage of the opportunity, trading licks with Corey and Lacocque at a rapid pace.

This is the total package - great tunes, heartfelt vocals and fine musicianship from start to finish. Piere Lacocque is the glue that has held this band together for eighteen years and through numerous personal changes. His unique and creative approach to playing the harp is the final piece that elevates this recording out of the current pack of blues releases - the perfect antidote for those seeking relief from the onslaught of rock albums masquerading as blues music. Delmark and Mississippi Heat serve up a generous helping of the Chicago style, played with vigor, class - and highly recommended !!

Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL.  

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