"Bad To Worse" is the follow-up to Blind Mississippi Morris and The Pocket Rockets' debut CD, "You Know What I Like" (Icehouse Records-P2 53553). "Bad To Worse" was self-produced and recorded in guitarist Brad Webb's barn near Memphis, Tennessee. The end result, however, was some serious "barn burning" music by the Mississippi born harpist and his fine backup band, The Pocket Rockets.
From the opening tune, "Bad To Worse" features some of the best blues harp sounds that I have ever heard on record, or live for that matter. The fact that The Pocket Rockets have had a long standing relationship with Morris is manifested on this CD with a tight, complimentary sound that only strengthens the fine harp and resonant vocals of Blind Mississippi Morris. In addition to Morris, The Pocket Rockets include Brad Webb on guitar; Russell Lee Wheeler on Keyboards; Dan Cochran on bass; and Tony Adams on drums. All but one of the thirteen songs on the CD are written by Blind Mississippi Morris (a.k.a., Morris Cummings) and/or one or more members of The Pocket Rockets. The only cover to be found on the record is Willie Dixon's, "Built For Comfort." This version of the Dixon classic was arranged by Brad Webb and features a very convincing Howlin' Wolf impersonation by Morris as the vocalist.
The CD opens with the album's title song, "Bad To Worse," featuring an infectious opening riff and great interplay between the guitar of Brad Webb and Blind Mississippi Morris' harp. Many times on this song, and elsewhere on the CD, the guitar and harp almost sound like one instrument.
While most of the CD is hard-edged electric delta blues; on two songs, "Small Town Blues" and "Hwy. 17," the band reverts to a more traditional, haunting, acoustic sound. Regardless of the style employed, many of the songs feature multiple back and forth exchanges between Morris on harp and Brad Webb on lead or slide guitar. Later in the CD, Morris and Webb are joined as featured instrumentalists by keyboard player, Russell Lee Wheeler, on "Singing The Blues." This was one of my favorite songs on the CD and one hot tune featuring great interplay between three stellar musicians.
Morris offers an extended, and blistering, harp solo on an instrumental titled, "Willie." This song features a fine keyboard and guitar solo as well. On the other instrumental, "Nightroads," bassist, Dan Cochran, also offers a fine bass solo.
"Mississippi Jukin'" and "Hwy. 17" are two very different tunes, both representing the Delta style. "Mississippi Jukin'" offers some very nasty slide guitar by Brad Webb, a very accomplished slide player. As mentioned earlier, "Hwy. 17" is an acoustic tune with an eerie swamp sound, complete with an interesting accompaniment by guest violinist, Larry Devo.
Since "Bad To Worse" is a self-produced recording by Blind Mississippi Morris and The Pocket Rockets, distribution of the CD appears to be limited. I have not seen the CD in any stores in the Twin Cities or any of the other cities that I have been in recently. In fact, I purchased my copy directly from the band at their recent show at The BamBoo Room in Lake Worth, Florida. However, given the quality of the music offered by Blind Mississippi Morris and The Pocket Rockets on "Bad To Worse", this is definitely a recording worth looking for.
This review is copyright © 1999 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.