Pierre Lacocque's Mississippi Heat have a new release on Delmark, Warning Shot, that will be welcomed by the band's fans and likely make new fans from listeners. Lacocque’s leadership along with his songwriting and marvelous harmonica playing (Charlie Musselwhite is quoted calling it tasty and brilliant) is joined by one of the most underrated vocalists in the blues, Inetta Visor; vocals and guitar from Michael Dotson; guitar from Giles Corey; bass from Brian Quinn; and a vocal from Kenny Smith who shares the drum chair with Andrew Thomas. Former band member Carl Weathersby is on guitar on a couple tracks, Neal O’Hara is on keyboards, Ruben Alvarez is on percussion and Sax Gordon handles the saxophones.
The opening Sweet Poison is an imaginative original, built upon the Elmore James broom dusting riff with Lacocque's fine harp riding over Dotson’s crisp slide playing. The band pushes the groove behind a superb vocal from Visor. Years ago she might have been described as a moaner as opposed to a shouter, but her nuanced singing is thoroughly a delight. You get a sense of the vivacious quality of her performances listening to her, but the joy she has singing is evident when one sees Heat live (or on the band’s Live DVD “One Eye Open, Live at Rosa’s” on Delmark). Sweet Poison is followed by the rollicking “Alley Cat Boogie” with pumping piano from O’Hara and an exuberant vocal from Visor.
An original Come To Mama sports Caribbean rhythms (handled by Thomas) while Corey takes the guitar lead sounding like he’s playing through a Leslie amp. Gordon takes a tough tenor sax solo, while Lacocque’s solo suggests some of Walter Horton’s playing (thinking of Horton’s take La Cucaracha). More terrific harp along with Corey’s jazzy guitar is heard behind Visor’s moving singing on a reworking of a Ruth Brown recording, I Don’t Know. Dotson takes a capable vocal on Yeah Now Baby with its North Hills Country meets Muddy Waters rhythms.
Birthday Song, is a funky, buoyant original that provides blues and soul revival bands with an alternative to the standard birthday song. Corey is in a Santana mode here with Gordon and Lacocque riffing in support. Dotson’s guitar lead on his bouncy rocker, Swingy Dingy Baby evokes the late Texas guitarist Cal Valentine. Too Sad To Wipe Way The Tears has a low-key backing with terrific Lacocque’s harp in a Sonny Boy Williamson II manner. Dotson’s restrained slide playing is exceptional.
Set against a crisp shuffle groove and Gordon’s one-man sax section, the instrumental rendition of Your Cheating Heart showcases Lacocque’s wonderful harp. Gordon takes a booting solo on this. A Part of Special a funky Visor original whose backing vocal chorus, the horn arrangements (and a sax solo that would have King Curtis smiling) and a terrific vocal suggests some classic 70s Aretha Franklin (she is really good here).
The terrific Warning Shot features tight ensemble playing (one of the things that Lacocque has always focused on with this band), excellent new original material, interpretations of songs that have not been recorded a zillion times, strong solos and the wonderful blues and soul vocals of Inetta Visor.
I received my review copy from Delmark Records. For those near Washington DC, Mississippi Heat is at Madam's Organ on Friday October 17. Here is a video of Mississippi Heat performing.