Like clockwork, Mississippi Heat front man and musical tour de force Pierre Lacocque churns out well-crafted collections that feature a stellar cast of Chicago blues stalwarts. The latest, with special guests John Primer and Carl Weathersby, is another exuberant romp through various blues styles, with most of the material upbeat and driven by Lacocque’s endlessly inventive harmonica stylings.
The idea behind Mississippi Heat is that of a musical collective, with a bit of a revolving cast from song to song. Inetta Visor provides the bulk of the vocals, with Primer tackling a trio this time out. Guitarists include the aforementioned guests in addition to Giles Corey, while drum duties are shared by Kenny ‘Beady Eyes’ Smith and Andrew ‘Blaze’ Thomas. There’s also a horn section on a handful of tracks.
It’s a large cast, as 18 names appear in the credits, but Lacocque, who composed all but three of the disc’s generous 14-track playlist, marshals forces with aplomb, with tightly focused arrangements that leave lots of room for his signature high-end harp work.
Quite simply, Lacocque is a marvel on the Mississippi saxophone, with a style all his own. Favoring piercing squeals and intricate runs in the upper register, he’s nonetheless equally capable of the fat-toned, full-bodied squalling that hits with the power of a passing freight train. Indeed, train rhythms feature prominently, notably on “Peace Train,” a gospel rave-up with an irresistibly propulsive beat.
The title track that kicks things off continues this theme, as it careens like a runaway train, as does the delightful “Betty Sue.” Elsewhere, Lacocque ensures variety with the greasy funk of “Been Good To You” and features bouncy romps like “Jumpin’ In Chi-Town” and the apt closer, “Until We Meet Again.”
Primer handles lead vocals on his own ”I Got Some News Today,” a by the book shuffle enlivened with excellent fretwork. Inetta Visor’s “She Died From A Broken Heart,” while undoubtedly well-intentioned, is the disc’s weakest track – one suspects it comes from real life experience. While the message is laudable, the tune comes across as rather maudlin.
Apart from that lone misstep though, the spirit and energy here are well-nigh irresistible. And Lacocque is (thankfully) adept at mining tradition without resorting to cliché – the music is all unmistakably within the twelve-bar blues convention but does not sound tired or tread-worn. Lively and eminently danceable, Let’s Live It Up is another fine addition to Mississippi Heat’s discography.