Some people are inclined to describe Mississippi Heat as a blues band "concept" and a vehicle for bandleader and harp player, Pierre Lacocque, to showcase his talents, as well as those of the musicians who have played with the band since it was first formed in 1991. It seems that each time that I, or my friends, have seen Mississippi Heat, the band personnel have been different. Despite the ongoing transformation of the band, Mississippi Heat has provided consistently excellent music for audiences all over the world.
On Saturday night at Famous Dave's, I got my first look at the "new millennium" version of Mississippi Heat. The last time I saw Mississippi Heat was at a CD release party for their most recent release "Handyman" in June 1999 and only three members remain from the core band that laid down the tracks for "Handyman." In addition to the ever present Pierre Lacocque on harp, Kenny Smith on drums and vocalist Katherine Davis; the new band included Jasper Buchanan (keyboards), Chris Winters and Ice Mike (guitars), and Bernard "BNY" Reed (bass).
The band opened each set with a couple of instrumental numbers, show casing the talents of the band members. The Belgium-born Lacocque is an excellent, yet somewhat understated harp player and, clearly, a respected bandleader. Also of interest during the evening was the quality of the two guitarists, Chris Winter and Ice Mike, who offered some well done, complimentary solos throughout the night. Coupled with tremendous keyboard work by Jasper Buchanan, the opening instrumentals were all of the highest quality.
When vocalist Katherine Davis came on stage to provide most of vocals during each set, the band's sound took on a different tone. Davis was able to build an immediate rapport with the audience and she involved several members of the audience on songs like "These Men Look good To Me". Davis' sultry voice was well suited for the vocal portion of each set which included classics like "I Can't Do It By Myself" and "Fever," as well as originals such as "Excuse Me" from the Mississippi Heat's fourth CD, "Handyman". Davis was briefly relieved of her singing duties by keyboardist Jasper Buchanan, most notably on "Handyman," where he provided the vocals in place of former Mississippi Heat and Junior Wells guitarist, George Baze. Sadly, Baze passed away in October 1998, just as the "Handyman" CD was being completed.
Mississippi Heat offered some superb music on my first visit to Famous Dave's in the new millennium, satisfying my desire to listen to some good blues to start the year off right. Hopefully, the night was a prelude of more good things to come in 2000.
This review is copyright © 2000 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission.