It is not hard to understand why Mississippi MacDonald's latest studio album 'Dress For the Money' was sitting comfortably at the top of the 'most played' line-up last month. I can't speak for the Wise Ears at the IBBA but his new album ticks every box on the list. Following on from his highly acclaimed 'American Accents' last year, Mississippi is back to basics here. Although with some guest musicians Phil Dearing, Lucy Dearing and Jason Melville, the Hammond and piano have been moved more into the background. Here he is again with his solid back-line of B.C Black on bass and Rob Wilson on Drums while the very distinctive Sony Terry influenced tones of Rossco Blues wrap delicately across everything. This has that touch of old friends flying together that you only get when you know that everybody is on the same page without even looking.
Opening with the album title track 'Dress For The Money' – which is a nod to MacDonald's own insistence that you should dress sharp for the stage - we get a solid straight down the middle upbeat blues played with some wonderful swing attack, a classic little shout-out chorus line and all perfectly fitted to open a live show and get everyone up off their seats.
Mississippi is in total charge with his slow and spare 'Too Much, too little' with his colleagues oh-so-subtly just being there when they are needed. However, he opens up again with 'Big Man, Red Suit' with a spot-on bustin' Chicago style look at his own colourful suited and booted persona.
There follows a wonderful version of 'Ain't Nobody's Business' where, with the aid of some warm swirling Hammond, Mississippi takes us right back to an original near gospel rendition of this classic pre Freddie King and even pre Witherspoon. It is always dangerous territory, reworking a classic but this band has really sure feet. Back to Chicago with an up-tempo 'Blacksnake Brown' and 'Even if it makes me Poor' with its wistful but optimistic lyrics, is the familiar lover's declaration who would do absolutely anything to win his paramour.
'This Old City' is a totally fascinating take on Stax type preacher blues which, with some feisty lyrics and some beautiful sustained slide, allows Rossco to open up with a powerful and evocative melodic. Great atmospheric piece. The final track is a reprise of 'Ain't Nobody's Business' where we are back with a more familiar version by this tight band.
So, why is this so good? Putting aside (if you can!) the fact that these are all accomplished musicians and the production, by Phil Dearing, serves them well, the album, despite potentially being a sort of smorgasbord of material, hangs together as a first-rate flowing album. Mississippi has something to say and says it with style. The range takes us from up-jump to slow flow, from traditional Chicago to Stax via some smart selfie insights. Each track stands on its own as a thoughtful well-written and arranged piece of work.
It's no wonder the IBBA ear-whisperers loved it. There is Absolutely Nothing on here not to like. Go buy.