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Crybaby Blues 

Mississippi Heat frontman still boo-hoos over the harmonica.

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Pierre Lacocque tries to hide the tears at the memory of his dad buying him his first harmonica. Even as a 3-year-old boy in his adopted France, he sensed that the green plastic plaything would play a pivotal part in his childhood. "I remember crying when I heard the sounds that came out of that toy. It echoed what was inside of me," says the 55-year-old Lecocque, who's in town tonight for a show with his Mississippi Heat blues sextet. "I knew early on the harmonica was the instrument for me."Flash forward to 1969, when his father took a teaching job at the Chicago Theological Seminary. On a lark, Lacocque bought a ticket to a Big Walter Horton concert in which the veteran mouth harpist played a blues rendition of the Mexican standard "La Cucaracha." Once again, Lacocque fights off a crying spell as he remembers: "The music shook me. The sounds that came out of that instrument sent shivers all over me — the deep sounds, the moaning, the ampified tones." Lacocque grew determined to assemble a Chicago-style blues band, with the harmonica as the dominant force behind his original music. Since 1996, the group has recorded seven CDs, including 2005's Glad You're Mine. "I thrive on warm, fat, deep sounds, like those of a church organ. I do not restrict myself to old, well-known lines to express what's in my heart and soul," says Lacocque, who credits Ray Charles, Otis Redding, and Little Richard as his early influences. "I feel more alive and more fulfilled."The ensemble is now putting the finishing touches on its next disc, which is slated to be released in the spring. To promote it, the band already has booked gigs at bluesfests in Switzerland and Italy next summer. "I approach each gig as if it were my last," says Lacocque. "Who knows how much time I have left on this good earth?" The band plays at 9 tonight at Fat Fish Blue, 21 Prospect Avenue. Tickets are $8. Call 216-875-6000 or visit www.fatfishblue.com.
Fri., Dec. 7, 9 p.m., 2007

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