Have you noticed how with some musical instruments it seems plenty of people can acquire a level of competence, but the number who can take it to the next level are few and far between. There's something about the instrument that it takes dedication or talent for the player to distinguish themselves from the field either by their sound or their inventiveness.
The more that I hear it being played the more convinced I am that blues harmonica is such an instrument. There are plenty of people out there who are capable of playing along with a band, keeping the beat, and throwing in a solo or two when the song requires it. Yet, for the most part, one player is interchangeable with the rest as very few have a real distinct style anymore. It seems odd that an instrument that looks to be so intimate when being played, has produced so few players who seem to be able to imbue their playing with a character unique to themselves.
So, I have to confess to feeling less than enthusiastic about listening to the new CD recorded by Mississippi Heat, Hattiesburg Blues, on Delmark Records when I saw the cover photo of a man in a Panama hat cradling a harmonica in his hands. Those misgivings were slightly mitigated when I flipped the package over and saw a listing of the various players who had contributed to the album's creation, as I recognized among them some of the finest players on the Chicago blues scene, including one of my favourite guitar players Lurrie Bell.
In a genre replete with a history of unique individuals, Mississippi Heat band leader, song writer, and harmonica player Pierre Lacocque's story alone is enough to warrant his inclusion in their number. Born in Israel, he was raised in his parents' home country of Belgium from 1957 until 1969 when his father, a Protestant minister, was offered a job in Chicago as a professor of Old Testament studies at the Chicago Theological Seminary.