With all the classic blues songs that Pierre Lacocque can cover, why does he choose to create original material? Lacocque, leader of the blues band Mississippi Heat, ponders that for a moment. "That's a very good question," the harmonica player says.
"First of all, some covers in the blues world have been have been so overdone, and in many ways, my job is to stay fresh. I lean toward trying to be original with profound respect for the traditions of the blues."
That fusion of originality and respect for tradition can be heard on Mississippi Heat's latest recording, "Let's Live It Up." The album also includes covers of Sugar Pie DeSanto's "I Want to Know" and John Primer's "I Got Some News Today." Lacocque wrote 11 of the 13 original tracks on "Let's Live It Up." Longtime Mississippi Heat vocalist Inetta Visor co-wrote the song "She Died From a Broken Heart." "What I tried to do with this (album) is go back home to Chicago to the traditional blues sound," Lacocque says.
The band's previous album, "Hattiesburg Blues," had what Lacocque calls more of a Latin blues approach. Some listeners might also hear the blues/R&B fusion sound that is known as Southern soul on tunes such as "Soft Hearted Woman" and "Forgot You Had a Home." Lacocque says the band embraces the musical sound that attracted him to the blues when he came to Chicago with his father more than 40 years ago.
Lacocque's father was a biblical scholar who came to teach at the University of Chicago. At that time, Lacocque was a teenager who received a harmonica as a gift when he was 2 years old. Lacocque, the son of a minister and theologian, was being groomed for the scholarly life. Lacocque was born in Israel. His family moved to Germany and France before settling for a while in the family's home country of Belgium. Lacocque says his father, an Old Testament scholar, placed his children in a Jewish school where they learned Hebrew and studied Old Testament history. Lacocque says he spent nearly all of his time studying. He also says he tried to figure out what to make of the harmonica his father gave to him as a toddler.
"I knew in my soul that the harmonica was an instrument that (I could) use to (express) my feelings," Lacocque says. "I didn't know what to play (on) it." Lacocque says the inability to express what he felt inside filled him with a profound sense of sadness. "I used to cry -- tears coming down my face -- blowing in and out on a plastic harmonica at 2 1/2 years old," he says. Lacocque says that he knows now that he had the blues, but he didn't know the blues existed until fate -- and a teaching position for his father -- brought the family to Chicago in the late 1960s.
He decided to attend a blues concert, and what Lacocque heard changed his life. "I heard the harmonica player playing the blues, and the sounds and depths of the notes was a religious experience to me." Lacocque heard the classic Chicago-style electrified blues that day. That music, created and refined in the 1950s and '60s, became the key building block for rock music. It also started Lacocque on a journey that would end with him mastering the "blues harp" and forming the band Mississippi Heat.
Lacocque says "Let's Live It Up" is an album that seeks to capture the spirit of the kind of blues fans would have heard from artists such as Muddy Waters back in the '50s. For Lacocque, capturing the spirit of blues music means expressing all of the emotions that can be heard in that music. He notes that many people incorrectly think that blues music is always sad. However, the music talks about the human experience, which can be happy or sad. That is why Lacocque sees the blues as a spiritual music even if it is not always religious. "The genius of the African-American tradition with the blues is understanding what it is to feel," Lacocque says. "To feel life."
----Pierre Lacocque's Biography From An Interview In SouthBendTribune.com by Howard Dukes
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