Mississippi Heat: A Fresh Take On Blues Tradition

Nov 7, 2016

Pierre Lacocque
Credit Marc PoKempner

Pierre Lacocque is especially geeked about Mississippi Heat's just released album "Cab Driving Man."  But to be fair, he was especially geeked about the band's last recording, 2014's "Warning Shot."

"Yes, I'm still very proud of 'Warning Shot.'  But I think the band continues to stick together so the Hundreds of gigs and traveling together has further solidified the gelling of the band.  The lineup has been stable for years now.  I particularly liked the range of the music on this album as well.  I usually never listen to a recording once it's completed, but this one I have, so there is something there" laughed the founder and leader of Mississippi Heat."

Lacocque said there is significance and a dual word play to the title of "Cab Driving Man."

"One has to do with cabaret; I had a cabaret feel for that song" said Lacocque.  "And Cab Callaway came to my mind, with the song 'Minnie The Moocher.'  I like a lot of what Cab Callaway did with big bands.  And I wanted to have a cabaret feel.  So yes, the 'Cab' driving man is about taxi's, it's a story about a taxi driver, but it's also an homage to Cab Callaway."

The Israeli born, (mostly) Belgian raised Lacocque was introduced to blues music when he heard harmonica legend Big Walter Horton playing just down a neighborhood street not long after he moved to Chicago at age 16.  Having played harmonica from a young age, he was transfixed by the sound Horton was making with the instrument.  His way to Mississippi Heat is a long story that includes studying philosophy and psychology, but after seeing Horton, he immersed himself in the Chicago blues scene.  Since their founding in 1991, Mississippi Heat's album production has reached double digits and Lacocque and various incarnations of the band have toured the world many times over.  Lacocque said in-studio or on the road, he works to keep Mississippi Heat's Chicago based blues sound fresh, while staying true to the music's culture.

"The structure and feel of a song has to start with the blues culture. It has to have a blues historical, musical context.  Even though everyone will tell you, including me, that I am fresh and original, my point of departure is always an homage and respect for tradition" said Lacocque.

Mississippi Heat
Credit Alfonso Zirpoli

He said his joy comes from the tradition itself, and enjoys self-expression within that context.

"The language, images, and musical repertoire I use as a starting point comes from harmonica players I respect and that mentored me, and Little Walter and Big Walter are two for me.  I don't like to create in a vacuum, and I don't like a phony blues kind of thing.  I would hire Billy Flynn, John Primer, or Lurrie Bell in the past  if someone in my band couldn't do it" said Lacocque.

It's been years since Lacocque had to worry about band members who "couldn't do it," and he's especially proud of the ensemble nature of Mississippi Heat.  Like a proud parent, Lacocque ticks off a verbal checklist of memorable contributions to "Cab Driving Man" by band members, including the work of lead vocalist Inetta Visor, the original songs contributed by guitarist Michael Dotson, and his own work on acoustic harmonica.

"So again, it's a continuation of 'Warning Shot,' but no less exciting" gushed Lacocque.