Let’s Live It Up!
Delmark – DE 807
Pierre Lacocque remembers the day in 1969 that his life changed forever. He was 17-years-old, had just recently immigrated to Chicago with his family from Belgium, and he heard Big Walter Horton play amplified blues harmonica. Many years later in 1991, the highly-educated Lacocque formed Mississippi Heat. His objective was to put together a group of the best Chicago blues veterans to play original music in the tradition of ’50s Chicago blues.
In addition to harmonicist/songwriter/bandleader Lacocque, other current core band members are vocalist Inetta Visor, drummer Kenny Smith, bassist Stephen Howard, and guitarists Carl Weathersby and Giles Corey. This CD’s special guests include guitarist/vocalist John Primer, keyboardist Chris Cameron, drummer Andrew Thomas, percussionist Ruben Alvarez, vocalist Rhonda Preston, the four-member Chicago Horns, and three background vocalists.
“Grooving” is the word I would use to describe Mississippi Heat’s ninth disc. The CD ascertains the band is equally capable of playing soul and gospel in addition to blues. Lacocque wrote the majority of the 14 songs. Visor and Primer contribute a couple of their own. The sole cover is I Want To Know which was made famous by Sugar Pie DeSanto and sounds loosely based on Howlin’ Wolf’s Killing Floor.
True to the band’s purpose, Steadfast, Loyal And True is modern electric Chicago blues that’s rooted in the ’50s. Purity (“Like a good man from Galilee/I’m steadfast and true”) is the song’s message. It flows through the potent rhythm and laconic lead of Primer’s guitar. Primer puts meaning and value into each note. The sound of his distinctive guitar will be recognized instantly. I Got Some News Today contains more traditional Chicago blues by Primer. Betty Sue completes the hat trick of songs sung by Primer. It has an extremely fun old-time rock ‘n’ roll rhythm and it’s a road racer. It gives Lacocque a chance to demonstrate his Little Walter influence and skills.
Another Sleepless Night contains some wicked shredding from Weathersby and is loaded with much emotion. Too bad the blasting horns sound synthesized. The pain in Visor’s voice doesn’t match the suffering contained within the lyrics, but you’ll love the few bars of the traditional funeral march included in Lacocque’s gloomy and temperamental chromatic harp solo. She Died From A Broken Heart contains a very sweet melody which sharply contrasts with tragic lyrics. Visor wrote it about her best friend. It reveals the consequences of continuing to live in a doomed relationship. The harp shares the anguish of the lyrics. The guitar moves you to take control of the situation. The backing vocals are both sexy and haunting. The overall melody is melancholic, which is enhanced via Weathersby’s solo.
Let’s Live It Up! is a one chord rockin’ boogie that Lacocque describes as “John Lee Hooker on steroids.” It features a drilling bass/drum rhythm section and a forget-about-tomorrow theme. The guitar and organ fills are amazing. Here, Visor wails on vocals as much as Lacocque squalls on harp. Like the title track, Don’t Cry For Me has a live-for-today attitude and a recommendation to make the most of life by sharing strong relationships. The melody is very catchy. The lyrics are so beautiful they could be used as a eulogy.
The soaring horns add authenticity to the swingin’ ’30s/’40s flavored Jumpin’ In Chi-Town. Here, Lacocque blows his top front and centre as the band boldly follows his every move. Likewise, Weathersby is smoking, and he means business on Been Good To You. He uses sharp guitar notes to twist a knife further into the back of a woman who suspects her man is fooling around on her. Dig the ultra funky organ fills as Lacocque innovatively plays his chromatic harp as if it’s both a trumpet and a piano.
There is a certain depth to this music which is absent from other contemporary acts. No doubt the profundity is aided by the presence of veteran Chicago musicians and Lacocque’s academic achievements. Throughout, Cameron’s piano and organ is a pure pleasure to hear. Visor is one of the better blues belters on the scene, but she lacks the bite and growl of a Koko Taylor.
It’s fantastic to hear Mississippi Heat’s real blues, especially the songs that feature Primer, as compared to all the lame music that gets classified as blues these days. Genre fragmentation does not take place on this album. Let’s Live It Up! is an all around prized disc by Chicago’s most underrated band. It has the potential to have the same impact on its listeners as Big Walter had on Lacocque many years ago.