Mississippi Heat first wowed audiences at the Edmonton Blues Festival in 2016, with their fiery brand of Chicago blues. For this encore appearance, they have a special guest in tow…Chicago blues royalty, Lurrie Bell. “If there is a Chicago blues child who perhaps epitomizes the blues life, it’s Lurrie Bell…the premier guitarist in the Windy City.” Boston Blues News
Born in 1958, the son of famed blues harmonica player Carey Bell, Lurrie Bell picked up his father’s guitar at age of five and taught himself to play. He was clearly gifted. In addition, he grew up with many of the Chicago blues legends around him. Eddie Taylor, Big Walter Horton, Eddie C. Campbell, Eddie Clearwater, Lovie Lee, Sunnyland Slim, Jimmy Dawkins and many more were frequent visitors to his house. They all helped to shape and school him in the blues, but none as much as his father͛s long-time employer Muddy Waters.
At seven years old, Bell left Chicago to live in Mississippi and Alabama with his grandparents. During this time he played mostly in the church, immersing himself in the passionate expressiveness of the gospel tradition. At fourteen he moved back to Chicago and continued to play in church as well as forming his first blues band while attending high school.
By seventeen Lurrie Bell was playing on stage with Willie Dixon. In 1977 he was a founding member of The Sons of Blues with Freddie Dixon (son of Willie) and Billy Branch. The band recorded three standout tracks for Alligator Records’ Grammy nominated Living Chicago Blues series. In 1978 Bell joined Koko Taylor’s band and stayed for several years, honing his chops and learning the ropes of being a traveling musician. He continued to work with his dad as well, recording the 1984 Rooster Blues album Son Of a Gun and several other titles for UK’s JSP Records. Not only was Bell recognized as an exceptionally talented guitarist and musician, his knowledge of different blues styles, his soulfulness and his musical maturity delivered write-ups in publications such as Rolling Stone and The New York Times.
Battling and defeating a series of personal demons kept him out of the studio and off the road for a long spell in the late 1980’s, but Bell persevered and re-surfaced in the mid-1990’s with a succession of four highly acclaimed records for Chicago’s Delmark label.
Since the onset of the new millennium, Bell’s profile has been steadily rising. 2002 saw the release of the CD Cutting Heads and in 2004 Alligator Records released Second Nature an acoustic duet record with his father Carey Bell that was nominated for a WC Handy Award Acoustic Record of the Year by the Blues Foundation in Memphis.
In 2007 Bell started his own label Aria B.G. Records and released Let’s Talk About Love, which has been called his most accomplished, deeply heartfelt album yet. On the strength of this record, he was voted Most Outstanding Guitar Player in the 2007 Living Blues Magazine’s Critic’s Poll, and in 2008 and 2012 he was named the magazine’s Male Blues Artist of the Year. Since 2007 he has received multiple Blues Music Award nominations as Best Guitarist and Best Traditional Male Blues Artist by the Blues Foundation.
2009 found him pairing up with Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer, Billy Branch on the recording Chicago Blues: A Living History which garnered him his first official Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Blues Recording. In 2011 a follow-up was released; Chicago Blues: A Living History (The Revolution Continues) featuring Buddy Guy, Magic Slim, and Ronnie Baker Brooks.
And in 2012 came the arrival of his second CD on Aria BG Records The Devil Ain’t Got No Music, a collection of acoustic blues and gospel songs that recollect the music he often played with his dad and at church in Mississippi and Alabama as a child. In January 2013 The Devil Ain’t Got No Music was honored with the Prix du Blues award from the prestigious French L’Academie du Jazz for the Best Blues Recording of 2012 and the title song (written by producer Matthew Skoller) received a nomination from the Blues Foundation for song of the year.
In 2013 Bell re-signed with Delmark and enlisted famed Chicago producer Dick Shurman to make the record Blues in My Soul. For this project he wanted to get back to the solid foundation of Chicago-styled traditional guitar blues. Blues in my Soul features three new Lurrie Bell originals plus songs by Little Walter, T-Bone Walker, Jimmy Rogers, and Big Bill Broonzy and others. In 2016 Bell returned to studio with Dick Shurman for his next Delmark CD “Can’t Shake This Feeling.”
At last count Lurrie Bell has now appeared on over 50+ recordings either as leader or featured sideman. Lurrie Bell͛s elegant and intense guitar playing and passionate vocals have made him a favorite at clubs and festivals around the world and have earned him a reputation as one of the “leading lights” in the future of the blues.
Pierre Lacocque, Mississippi Heat’s band leader and song writer was born in 1952, in Israel, of Christian-Belgian parenthood. However, shortly after his birth, Pierre’s family moved to Germany and France before going back to Belgium in 1957.
Thanks to the radio in young Pierre’s room, he heard and was moved by such singers as Ray Charles, Otis Redding, and Aretha Franklin.
The harmonica was first introduced to him when his father bought him a green plastic harmonica toy when he was about three. It was not until he came to Chicago in 1969, however, that he finally detected his destiny: playing the blues on the harmonica. He was sixteen years old and on a Saturday night in the fall of 1969 Pierre went to a concert at the University of Chicago. He had no exposure to Chicago Blues before then, and had no expectations as to what he was about to hear. As he listened to the band playing, and In his own words, “I was absolutely stunned and in awe by the sounds I heard coming from that harmonica player and his amplifier … It sounded like a horn, yet distinct and unique”. The harmonica player went by the name of Big Walter Horton, a name he had never heard before but who changed his life forever. What he heard that night, the music, the mood, the style and sounds, moved his soul.
MISSISSIPPI HEAT emerged in 1991 on a night at the Cafe Lura in Chicago. Guitarist Jon McDonald invited Pierre to play harp for him with Robert Covington on drums and vocals. It was a great night…Pierre looked happy, and the band played with inspiration….a band was born.
Inetta Visor has blessed MISSISSIPPI HEAT with her voice since 2001. She was born in 1955 on the South Side of Chicago. It was a rare moment when she was found not singing or humming a song to herself. One day she decided to try out for an audition she heard about for the Rock ‘N Roll choir, DUBBER RUCKIE. Apparently Inetta was a natural, and she was selected to sing. Her first professional gig was with them in 1971, and she continued to hone her singing skills on and off the stage whenever she could. 2001 saw Inetta decide to give Michel Lacocque (Pierre’s brother and band manager) a call to offer her services to MISSISSIPPI HEAT. The rest is history.
Since she joined the band, they have recorded three albums and a DVD with Inetta, all of which have received awards. Inetta also won the Best Blues Singer competition at the House Of Blues (Chicago) on July 10, 2003. In all, Pierre and the Heat have now finished 7 CDs (as well as a DVD for Delmark Records in 2005). Among others, their recordings have won “BEST CHICAGO BLUES CD OF THE YEAR” and “BEST BLUES PRODUCTION OF THE YEAR.”