ALBUMS: CAB DRIVING MAN
AVAILABLE OCTOBER 21, 2016
CAB DRIVING MAN is Mississippi Heat’s 12th recording, and 6th release on Delmark Records. Passionate and melodic harmonica player Pierre Lacocque leads his band by providing 11 original songs, while maestro guitar player Michael Dotson sings on 3 of his own compositions. Lead singer Inetta Visor delivers stellar vocals on 12 songs, including 2 covers: “Don’t Mess Up a Good Thing” here a duet with Giles Corey; originally made famous by Fontella Bass and Bobby McClure, and “Smooth Operator” previously recorded by Sarah Vaughan. CAB DRIVING MAN takes you from vintage, low-down Chicago and Delta blues to exciting boogies, Latin beats, and R&B ballads. Special guests include Sax Gordon, Dave Specter, Sumito Ariyo, and Ruben Alvarez. (Delmark CD#: DE 848 / 2016)
1. CUPID BOUND
2. CAB DRIVING MAN
3. THAT LATE NIGHT STUFF
4. FLOWERS ON MY TOMBSTONE
5. ICY BLUE
6. THE LAST GO ROUND
7. LIFE IS TOO SHORT
8. DON’T MESS UP A GOOD THING
10. LUCK OF THE DRAW
11. MAMA KAILA
12. MUSIC IS MY LIFE
13. LONELY EYES
14. SMOOTH OPERATOR
15. CAN’T GET ME NO TRACTION
16. HEY PIPO!
The blues are universal and there’s no better example perhaps than a multiracial Chicago band inspired by the Mississippi Delta led by a talented Belgian blues harpist with a French sounding name who travel well, spreading their blues power from Montreux to Istanbul and other faraway pockets of American roots music lovers.
Founded in 1991, Pierre Lacocque (pronounced La-coke) and Mississippi Heat have become a repository of traditional Chicago electric blues with an evolving cast of members and guests. Little wonder that Pierre has often felt like a sideman in his own band that has included veteran Windy City blues performers such as John Primer, Carl Weathersby, Deitra Farr, Billy Flynn, Katherine Davis, Kenny Smith, Bob Stroger and Robert Covington. Truthfully though, it’s Pierre’s singular vision and devotion to his craft as harpist, songwriter, arranger and producer that has held this dynamic blues collective together all these years in a business that is notoriously fickle. “We all need some sort of a purpose”, says Pierre, “and whatever you do, you have to love it.”
Since the last Delmark album, Warning Shot was released in 2014, there have been significant developments for Mississippi Heat. Pierre has been able to maintain the band on a full time basis and the addition of a European booking agent greatly increased their presence overseas. In terms of radio airplay, Warning Shot was the band’s most successful album ever, charting almost immediately and occupying the #1 position on Living Blues magazine’s chart for five months in a row.
With increased activity and acclaim there is more stability. The Mississippi Heat lineup has crystallized around a core of key players, especially over the last two albums. Besides Pierre, it’s Inetta Visor, the talented longtime lead singer for whom he is able to craft songs from a feminine perspective. Guitarist Michael Dotson also writes and sings, and by Pierre’s own admission, challenges him to do his best instrumentally. And there’s the experienced rhythm section of Brian Quinn on bass and Terrence Williams on drums, the latter who has taken over more of the percussion duties as Kenny Smith has become more in demand as a touring musician.
The latest chapter in the Mississippi Heat story is Cab Driving Man; the title track is a Pierre original inspired musically by the legendary Cab Calloway (“Minnie the Moocher”) with its minor key, cabaret style. Calloway is mostly linked to Harlem and Hollywood but he also attended college in Chicago, an ultimately unsuccessful venture for a young man because of too much nightlife; It was in Chicago that Calloway met Louis Armstrong. Many years later, his last major acting role would come in “The Blues Brothers”, a film that also contained a cameo by blues harp legend and onetime Muddy Waters sideman, Big Walter Horton. It was the sound of Horton’s harmonica at a 1969 University of Chicago performance that captured a teenage Pierre’s attention, ultimately changing the direction of his life.
According to Pierre, “Everything I do has a story” and the stories of Cab Driving Man are found in its 16 songs, 11 of which were composed by Pierre. Guitarist Dotson added three more with two covers suggested by singer Visor including the Oliver Sain song “Don’t Mess Up A Good Thing” which Gregg Allman also covered many years ago for his Laid Back solo debut. Pierre’s subject matters run the gamut of the human experience from the purpose of life to the glory of love. He also touches on contemporary issues such as abuse from a woman’s perspective and unresolved family issues. Pierre’s professional training as a licensed therapist gives him a unique viewpoint as a songwriter not often duplicated. Song titles such as “Music Is My Life”, “Flowers on My Tombstone”, “Life Is Too Short”, and “Cupid Bound” reflect the diversity of this material.
Like many of the classic Chicago blues outfits they have emulated over the decades, Mississippi Heat has both carried the torch and added to the historic Windy City blues tradition. In a tough urban environment characterized by unrestrained gun violence from Al Capone and Prohibition to record murder rates on the streets of the South Side in 2016, the city of Chicago owes a considerable debt to its blues community for helping to change the conversation. From the early days of Mississippi Heat with Robert Covington, Billy Flynn and Bob Stroger to the current lineup, Pierre Lacocque’s band has represented the Chicago blues tradition overseas as well as locally.
The blues still lives in Chicago today but it’s a whole new generation of bands that carry on in 2016. Mississippi Heat is an important part of what is going on Chicago now with the ability to expand or contract their lineup depending on what is required. “It’s a vocation”, says Pierre but one that also requires “chemistry, which is a result of all the years together.” As for the new album, Cab Driving Man, Mississippi Heat is very excited. To Pierre, “An album is a passport, it gives you opportunity keep growing and traveling”. As long as that continues, Mississippi Heat will be a vital part of Chicago’s dynamic blues scene for a very long time indeed.
–BARRY KERZNER EDITOR IN CHIEF, AMERICAN BLUES SCENE
“With excellent musicianship and superior attention to the groove, this set of blues is a vivacious and entertaining trip!”
–JOHN THE ROCK DOCTOR, GONZO OKANAGAN GO
–TONY STOREY, BLUES AT THE TABLE, www.fmr.co.za