East Side Slim
Mississippi Fever – Mississippi Fever – Artist self-released, 2010
Mississippi Fever is the relatively new band formed by St. Louis brothers (and band rhythm section) Ted and Tom May and St. Louis transplant Brent Barker. Ted (bass) and Brent (guitar and vocals) have both spent considerable time in the Los Angeles music scene and are highly regarded players, as referenced by feature articles about each of them in Guitar Player magazine (as well as other publications.)
Tom (drums and percussion) has played drums on the local scene for more years than I should say, and many of you likely remember him from time spent playing in Melissa Neels' band. After many years of performing in the bands of other artists and working as studio musicians, the three men decided a year or so ago to form a band together and play the music that they wanted to perform. They have been doing well locally, entertaining music fans with their potent blues-rock blend, combining influences such as Buddy Guy, 70's era ZZ Top, and late '60s British blues rockers such as Cream.
The Songs: (songs by Mississippi Fever unless otherwise specified)
1. Nothin' But The Blues
--This bluesy rocker kicks off the CD, giving the listener a good feel for what is to come. The song rides a deep blues rhythmic feel courtesy of the May brothers, topped off with the jagged-toned guitar of Brent Barker.
2. High Heels And A Mini Skirt
--This one is a fun up-tempo Texas-bred shuffler, and likely goes over very well at the band's live shows. Mix a little Dallas shuffle in with some Paul Gilbert-inspired guitar licks (you might have to look up Mr. Gilbert, who isn't a blues player but is an exceptional guitarist) and you'll have an idea of what this one sounds like.
3. It Keeps Raining
--The tempo slows a bit here, to good effect. Album pacing and song sequencing is important, and the band does this well. This is a slow blues, with keyboard added to the mix from CD producer Doug Rayburn. Brent Barker does a nice job on vocals here, not over-singing the tune and staying within his own voice.
4. I Ain't Superstitious – (Willie Dixon)
--I can just about guarantee that this might be one of the most unusual arrangements of this old blues chestnut that you've heard – and that is a good thing. The boys have arranged this as a blues-rock tune, something along the lines of the 1960s British blues rockers (Cream, Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac, etc…)
5. Bad Intentions
--This one is a slow blues, and I like the tougher guitar sound Brent goes to beginning with his solo about 3 minutes into the song. I would have enjoyed hearing more of this sort of tone throughout the CD. At times his tone seems a bit light, or bright (Joe Satriani or Paul Gilbert-like? - or just my own problems with how bright Strat guitar tones can get), as compared to the deeper bluesy sound the rhythm section is laying down.
6. Devonshire Blues
--This a fun bluesy shuffling cut, with a nice hook and solid groove.
7. Domino Shuffle
--A funky instrumental track, this one is up-tempo and gives each band member a chance to step out and show off a bit. Very cool!
8. What You Need
--This one starts off in Satriani-tone mode during the intro, never losing that vibe entirely. It's a tough bluesy rock cut, and is a feature piece for Brent.
9. Messin' With The Kid – (Mel London)
--Most of you probably recognize this tune, closely associated with Junior Wells (although not written by Wells.) The Mississippi Fever version is less-funky than the original (but then again few versions are as funky as Junior's), but it really is an entertaining version of the tune, arranged to fit this band. Nothing wrong with that!
10. Too Much Alcohol
--This one is mostly a rockin' tune with blues feel, but it's one were a stronger vocalist would have made the song shine; Brent's voice is a little thin for this heavy tune. Musically, I dig this one a lot, and my head was bobbing right along with it.
11. Devonshire Blues (acoustic)
--We have an interesting acoustic take on Devonshire Blues here, with this being a solo piece from Brent. Here is sings and plays acoustic guitar, and honestly this track sounds great. I don't know if it's the starkness of the track or something else, but Brent reaches a very bluesy place here; very nice indeed.
Mississippi Fever is a St. Louis area band that packs a lot of talent into only 3 pieces. Their music leans toward the rock side of the blues rock genre (but who really likes genres anyway), which is probably natural considering the backgrounds of Brent and Ted. However, their love of blues and bluesy music shines strongly throughout the CD, with the album containing a nice mix of musical moods and styles. This keeps the listener interested and engaged throughout and makes for an entertaining CD. Also, blues fans that enjoy talented guitar players should pick this CD up and check out the skills of Mr. Barker. I do wish the vocals were a little stronger, but that said Brent doesn't over sing or try to be someone other than himself, either, which is commendable and much preferred to over singing. The band plays out regularly in the St. Louis area, so get out there and catch the "Mississippi Fever" if you can. OK, it's time to rate this bad boy – the debut self-titled CD from Mississippi Fever is rating a 3.0 on the STLBluesometer.
For more information concerning Mississippi Fever, see the following websites:
Lee Howland - aka "East