Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mississippi Heat Keeps One Eye Open on the Blues

Mississippi Heat is the wonderful group that Isreali-born Pierre Lacocque has organized and fronted using some of the finest, if not best-known Chicago blues musicians. The release One Eye Open:Live at Rosa's Lounge, is available on Delmark both as a CD and as DVD.

Mixing in some choice blues classic with his own fine originals, Lacocque has seen varying personnel in his group, but they have always had a strong Chicago blues ensemble sound that supported the vocalists and the soloists. Its hard not to notice Lacocque’s strong harp playing that evokes Carey Bell at times with his vocalized playing and fat tone. This edition of Mississippi Heat also benefits from the stunning guitar of Lurrie Bell and the strong rhythm of Chris ‘Hambone’ Cameron’s keyboards, Sturling Banks’ bass and Kenny Smith on drums.

While Lurrie Bell takes two nice vocals on Muddy Waters’ 19 Years Old, and T-Bone Walker’s Cold, Cold Feeling, it is a wonderful vocalist, Inetta Visor who currently fronts the band and introduces Pierre as “the man who came up with the plan” for the opening instrumental, Rosa’s Strut, that showcases his playing and the band’s nice ensemble sound as they provide that nice walking tempo behind him.

After Lurrie Bell’s fine delivery of 19 Years Old, Ms. Visor takes the mike to deliver Frederick Knight’s amusing I’ve Got to Sleep With One Eye Open, as she has to keep her eye open to keep her man from loving her all night, which is quite a different take than the usual story of the mistreating lover who is way too quick. Guitarist Max Valldeneu takes the lead here. 

Pierre opens on chromatic harp as Inetta sings his Dirty Deal about being “so in love, I could not see he was giving me a dirty deal.” Cool Twist is a nice rocking dance tune while the DVD only Moanin’ and Cryin’ is a fine slow blues followed by She Ain’t Your Toy, where Inetta gives a male friend some advice. Eddie Harris’ Listen Here provides Pierre with another showcase of his harp as the performance concludes in a most satisfactory fashion. The DVD thankfully focuses on the performers with some crowd shots mixed in but not to distraction. The focus is on the music and the performers and let that do the talking.

There is some really strong Chicago blues here as well and whichever format you choose you should find  to your liking.

My review copy was provided by Delmark records and this review originally appeared in the August 2006 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 285)

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