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Mississippi Heat - Hattiesburg Blues

13 songs; 63:00 minutes; Suggested

Styles: Chicago Blues (with some Latin twists)

“I need quality assurance! In these recessionary times, money is tight. I am not going to buy a CD on a whim; I want assurance of quality first.”

Does this sound like anyone you know? For fans of Chicago Blues, Mississippi Heat’s Hattiesburg Blues provides confidence of a sound investment (no pun intended) for hard earned dollars.

Start with the record label, Delmark. Founded by Bob Koester 55 years ago, Delmark does not publish light weights. This is Mississippi Heat’s second release on Delmark (8th album overall); that alone should guarantee no duds. Next, check the length of the CD; at 63 minutes, a buyer is definitely getting his money’s worth. Finally, consider the musicians involved; it is practically an all-star line up. To name a few, the man who founded the band in 1991, Pierre Lacocque, is a fantastic harp player, songwriter, bandleader, composer and arranger. He wrote or co-wrote all but two numbers. Lead vocalist Inetta Visor is a Chicago native with a powerful and expressive voice. Guests on guitar Lurrie Bell and Carl Weathersby have established their playing prominence long ago. The Chicago Horns, led by Kenny Anderson with Willie Henderson, Hank Ford, and Bill McFarland, and Latin percussionist Ruben Alvarez add significantly to this disc.

The band has always had an ensemble sound: all musicians are featured. The music is traditional because it is steeped in Chicago's golden sounds of the 1950s. On the other hand, Pierre's blues is unique because he dislikes treading on old beaten paths. He always writes new material, and this album is a combination of Chicago Blues and Latin rhythms.

From the first, bouncing real-deal blues notes of track one, “Tiger Man,” you’ll know you have made the right purchase. Then, when the lyrics sung sexily by Inetta sink in, broad smiles break out. “When he comes home from work, few words will do. At the blink of an eye, we’re doing the cootchie coo....When our business is done, we lay speechless in bed. Our minds can’t think ‘cause we’re halfway dead. We’re sweaty and wasted; our breathing is in synch. We enjoy it so much, we never need a drink. He’s my Tiger Man; I don’t care if his lovin’ kills me.” Pierre seals the deal with a nice harmonica solo in the middle.

Next up, Chris “Hambone” Cameron’s mid-tempo double tracked piano and organ open just ahead of some tasty single picked guitar notes. At 27 seconds in, a man’s formidable blues voice sings “Chicago Is My Home (the title), and I don’t care where the weather goes...I love this city any which way the wind blows.” It is Lurrie Bell guesting on lead guitar and vocals with Spurling Banks on bass, Kenny Smith on drums, Giles Corey on second guitar, and Pierre on harp. Authentic Chicago Blues are on this song like grease on a bacon cheeseburger.

The Latin-Blues can be heard starting on track 4, “How Much Worse Can It Be” with Ruben Alvarez’s bopping conga drums. When the title track, cut 6, opened and before the lyrics started, my wife started singing, “Hernando’s Hideaway” reflecting a distinct musical similarity. Track 9, “Calypso In Blue” is an up tempo instrumental that will have dancers doing the mambo if not the funky monkey.

Other treats include a slow, gospel tinged “Foolish Man” with Devin Thompson guesting on vocals. Here the Chicago Horns perform some innovative scores. Carl Weathersby’s stinging notes perfectly complement the message in Denise LaSalle’s “Soft Hearted Woman” sung with conviction by Inetta. 

The set closes with a funky, wah pedal song with an environmental and social conscience. Dedicated to Al Gore, “Nature Is Cryin’” is a welcome addition to efforts to make the world a better place. “Life must be revered; it cannot be kept in a zoo. Peace within ourselves means peace with nature too. Human greed is a strong magnet stronger than compassion. Few of us are seeking the light. If you are not a part of the solution, you’re definitely part of the problem.”

So, plop down those hard earned bucks with confidence; this album is a winner! And, remember, the high cost of living hasn't affected its popularity.

Reviewer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard each Thursday from 4:30 – 6:00pm on WKCC 91.1 FM in Kankakee, IL

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