British musicians have long had a burning passion for American roots music and none more than three- time British Blues Award nominee, Mississippi MacDonald, who earned his moniker for displaying his love for the blues at an early age. The guitarist/singer songwriter with a whiskey-soaked baritone doesn’t waste time on his latest album, Heavy State Loving Blues, launching into a tight Chicago Blues rebuke of “would be” music fans on the horn driven opening number “Howlin’ Wolf,” emphasizing his point with sharp guitar leads. Mississippi MacDonald’s eighth album, his second on APM Records, is once again produced by Phil Dearing (Eliza Carthy, Gretchen Peters, Kris Drever, Laura Cantrell) and features two inspired cover songs and eight great new originals. Lucy Dearing on backing vocals, whose soulful approach gives many tracks real depth, is a notable addition.
The title track is a chunk of Hi Records Soul that could have come from the Al Green catalog. Acclaimed vocalist and Memphis scion Vaneese Thomas joins MacDonald for the fiery duet “Blind Leading The Blind,” trading barbs over a driving groove from the solid rhythm section of Elliot Boughen on bass and drummer “Texas” Joe McRoury. The excellent arrangement from Dearing comes into play on the spacious soul number “Heading South,” and the smooth burning “(I Ain’t Gonna) Lie No More,” as both feature tasteful horn lines and keyboards propping up MacDonald’s pleading vocals and gritty guitar solos.
The first cover song is a pure rundown of O.V Wright’s “I’ve Been Searching,” from his 1973 Memphis Unlimited album delivered as a loving tribute to MacDonald’s gospel soul hero. The emotional blues ballad “I’ll Understand,” finds him digging deep into his softer side. The country tune “Trouble Doing The Right Thing,” from Zack Logan is remade here as an easy-going blues ramble. The mysterious tome “The Devil Wants Repayment,” has a lazy bayou feel and a touch of voodoo charm. In the album notes MacDonald lists that he played a Fender Albert Collins Telecaster so naturally he was moved to write “Blues For Albert,” on which he professes the origin of his obsession and the devotion to the art as a blues benediction to close the set. Mississippi MacDonald continues to carry the torch as a next generation blues man on another strong album.