Roadhouse album review: Mississippi Heat lights up a bluesy, passionate “Madeleine”

Mississippi Heat — “Madeleine” — Van der Linden Recordings VDL710

This excellent album has been around for about six weeks now, but it’s too good to ignore, even if I am a little late to the party.

Mississippi Heat is a very unique blues band. It’s led by Pierre Lacocque, a blues harpmaster and songwriter with a truly international heritage — born in Israel, then living in Germany and France, then raised in Belgium. (Read more about his fascinating heritage.)

And so, for 30 years now, he has fronted a Chicago blues band (despite the band’s name!), and this is their 13th album.

Maybe it’s unfair to call this just a “band” — with guitarists Michael Dotson and Giles Corey, Chris Cameron on keys, Brian Quinn on bass, Terrence Williams on drums, a horn section with Mark Franklin on trumpet and Kirk Smothers on sax, plus full-throated harp stylings from Lacocque coupled with passionate vocals, the group can sound more orchestral than band-like.

And you can throw in some great guests — Johnny Iguana on keyboards, Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith on drums, Ruben Alvarez on percussion, Lurrie Bell and Carl Weathersby on guitar, and, icing on this tasty layer cake, splendid vocals from Inetta Visor, Daneshia Hamilton, Bell, Weathersby and Dotson.

Put all of that together with smart songwriting by Lacocque and Dotson, and you get what the band calls “traditional blues with a unique sound.”

For example, Weathersby takes the tough vocal on the opening track, “Silent Too Long,” while Corey rocks around him with a fiery guitar, Lacocque adds sparkling harp and Cameron scores a walk-off winner on the B-3.

Next, Daneshia Hamilton romps through the uptempo “Batty Crazy,” offering a harp showcase for Lacocque, followed by the Latinesque “Havana En Mi Alma” from Visor. Bell turns up next with piercing guitar runs around his down-home vocals on the Chicago-laced “Uninvited Guest.”

Similar blues times continue throughout, with a heady mix of all this fine talent. The title track is worth special mention — it’s Lacocque’s somber instrumental celebration of the life of his maternal grandmother, Emma Magdalena Van der Linden, a Belgian, for her work during World War II.

Taken altogether, “Madeleine” shines with the multiple personalities at its heart, pulled together by the talents of its multiple performers. Check it out. It’s one of the longest-running Chicago blues bands still cooking.

Interview with Pierre Lacocque by Michael Limnios of the Blues Gr blog.

I couldn’t find a video from this album, but here’s a 2018 Chicago Blues Festival performance:

Track Listing

  1. SILENT TOO LONG 4:45 P. Lacocque, Ransart Music, BMI
  2. BATTY CRAZY 4:35 P. Lacocque, Ransart Music, BMI
  3. HAVANA EN MI ALMA* 4:21 P. Lacocque, Ransart Music, BMI
  4. UNINVITED GUEST 4:53 P. Lacocque, Ransart Music, BMI
  5. NOTHIN’ I CAN DO 3:49 P. Lacocque, Ransart Music, BMI
  6. EMPTY NEST BLUES 4:03 P. Lacocque, Ransart Music, BMI
  7. RIDIN’ ON A HIT 4:06 P. Lacocque, Ransart Music, BMI
  8. EVERYBODY DO SOMETHIN’ 4:35 M. Dotson, Gritty City Music, ASCAP
  9. MADELEINE** 5:24 P. Lacocque, Ransart Music, BMI
  10. AT THE LUCKY STAR 4:39 P. Lacocque, Ransart Music, BMI
  11. TRUTH LIKE RAIN 5:34 M. Dotson, Gritty City Music, ASCAP
  12. TROUBLE 4:49 DeeDee Shonnie Music, BMI Arrangement: M. Dangeroux, DM MUSIC LLC, ASCAP
    * For Victoria Quero Lacocque
    ** In Memory of Emma Magdalena Van der Linden

PIERRE LACOCQUE harmonica, band leader
INETTA VISOR vocals (3,6,12)
DANESHIA HAMILTON vocals (2,5,7,10)
LURRIE BELL vocals (4), guitar (4,5,9)
CARL WEATHERSBY vocals (1), lead guitar (3 intro,6,12)
MICHAEL DOTSON vocals & lead guitar (8,11), except (1,5,7,9,12)
GILES COREY rhythm guitar (all tracks, except 11). lead guitar (1,2)
BRIAN QUINN acoustic and electric bass
TERRENCE WILLIAMS drums (all tracks except 2,4,9)
KENNY SMITH drums (2,4,9)
CHRIS “HAMBONE” CAMERON organ (B-3), Wurlitzer, clavinet
& piano (all tracks except 2,7,11 where JOHNNY IGUANA appears)
MARC FRANKLIN trumpet, horn arrangements (3,6,7,10)
KIRK SMOTHERS sax (3,6,7,10)
(A.K.A.“NADIMA”) Background Vocals & Arrangements (3,6,7,10,12)
RUBEN ALVAREZ percussion (3,10)

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