Midnight Blues

Midnight Blues

by Andrew "Smokey" Hogg


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Texas bluesman Andrew "Smokey" Hogg's greatest talent was his dogged persistence, since he couldn't keep a steady rhythm to save his life, and paired as he usually was with professional rhythm sections who were understandably baffled by Hogg's sonic detours, it is truly a miracle that he recorded as much and as long as he did. Calling Hogg's style rough-hewn might be more than generous, but somehow he managed to connect with an audience, lending credence to the old band saying that "the drunker they are, the better we'll sound," because this is music for the unsteady of feet, and it lurches more than it rocks or rolls. This set collects 20 tracks Hogg recorded for Modern Records between 1947 and 1952, many of which haven't seen the light of day until now, along with four sides released on Combo Records in 1951. Song after song starts out hopefully, only to derail into rhythmic chaos as the drummer and bass player struggle to find firm footing on what is hopelessly shifting ground. It really is fascinating to behold, and songs like "Believe I'll Change Towns" and the almost internally coherent "It's Rainin' Here" manage to work mostly because Hogg just never quits charging ahead. Most of these tracks, though, like the needlessly trombone-burdened "Misery Blues," are dead in the water two beats into the arrangement -- although calling any of this arranged can only apply to arranging that all the musicians involved are in the same room at the same time, which seems to have been the case, despite all aural evidence to the contrary. Still, Hogg's need to express himself is downright noble in this context, and there is nothing of pretense about him. There's no way to doctor this stuff, so what you hear is what you get.

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