It was during one of the last excursions to Ontario in late 2017 that we stumbled across a ‘local music’ section within a used CD store. Sifting through a rack of bands completely unknown to us, we saw a perfect opportunity to find a candidate for our ‘Take A Chance On Me’ series. While most were dismissed, it would be “Long Time Comin’” by The Mississippi Kings that caught my attention and accompanied us home.
After confirming that this band were indeed Canadian (Hamilton, ON – check), I spent the last week with this one spinning in the CD player during the daily commute. And with eleven great tracks on offer, this one certainly received plenty of airtime over the course of the week leading up to the holidays. Part of the excitement of this series is not knowing what to expect when hearing something for the first time, and just a handful of tracks into this album, I knew that this one had to be shared. Recorded back in 2008, this quintet filled the airwaves with a blend of good old fashioned rock n roll. But wait, there is more than meets the eye here! Distinct harmonies, and some distinct cross-genre flavors ranging from blues to soul add a wide variety of sounds and styles to this one.
Just a few lines into the opening track “A Little Bit Of Soul,” I immediately picked up on a blues-soul sound that is in part The Temptations, and part Primal Scream; an interesting combination that definitely had me taking notice from the offset. After another couple of tracks, the elements of old time rock n roll are interlaced with the sounds of Stax and Motown (check out “Sailing On The Ocean”). Fast forward to “Dirty Old-Time Nursery Rhyme Blues” and take a trip down a Rolling Stones inspired honky-tonk number that offers up images of music from the Southern Delta; indeed, I drew comparisons here to the ragtime inspired sounds of Devin Cuddy. This fusion of rock-soul remains constant across the album, notably during the likes of “All Eyes” and “This Old Melody.”
The Mississippi Kings may favor this rock and soul musical combination, but constantly surprise with some diversity across the album. From the slow and moody sounds of “I Tried So Hard” to the up-tempo, foot stomping rhythm of “In The Pale Moonlight,” there are sufficient changes of pace here to satisfy most listeners of this genre. Firmly demonstrating the influences of Bob Dylan and Gram Parsons one moment, and then the likes of Marvin Gaye the next, this band easily transition between such genres with an uncanny ability that provides the perfect blend of both worlds. And just when I had it all figured out, I encounter “Shoop,” the most diverse track on offer that pays homage to that slow dance number played at a 1960s high school prom.
Of course, having spent so much time listening to all eleven tracks, there are naturally a pair of songs in particular that stood out from the pack. “Bad News Blues” offers some wonderful old-time 12 bar blues that has that traditional blues-soul sound. With the dominance of the bass, the growl from the lead guitar, and that honky-tonk piano (plus some neat saxophone), if you are not grooving to the beat here, you clearly do NOT get the blues. Saving the best until last, The Mississippi Kings close with “Best Be On Your Way.” Slowing down the pace significantly to hint that the show is drawing to a close, this number allows the band to demonstrate both their wonderful vocal harmonies and a great instrumental duet between the accordion and piano.
And in fading to a close, “Long Time Comin’” leaves you with that rush of endorphins as experienced if these five guys were up on a stage just in front of you, playing that final number and bidding you farewell. Farewell, until next time, when another spin of this CD allows you to relive the rock-soul-blues inspired sounds from Ontario’s Steel City once more. I am certainly glad that we took a chance on this one, even if it was almost 10 years in the making. Go ahead and check this one out for yourself – I doubt that you will be disappointed.