Blues Bytes


August 2019

Various artists
 Blues Around Midnight

Blues After Midnite

When I started listening to the blues in the mid ’80s, my go-to source for the music was a catalog from a Massachusetts company called Roundup Records. I ordered a free catalog and was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of blues recordings that were suddenly available to me. I ordered as many as budgetarily possible, often focusing on compilations because I was able to be exposed a wider variety of blues artists and.I wanted to hear as much as I possibly could. I purchased many collections from the U.K. label Ace, which helped introduce me to the early recordings of B.B. King, Bobby “Blue” Bland, and Elmore James.

One of my favorite collections, which I have purchased in multiple formats since first ordering a cassette back in 1988, was Blues Around Midnight. As the title indicates, this is a set of blues after-hours, focusing on the mellow side of the blues, and it’s most excellent for late-night listening, It’s a mix of guitar and piano blues with some excellent vocalists and a few songs that I’ve never heard anywhere else. The music was collected from several labels --- Kent, Modern, Crown, and RPM --- spanning about a 20-year period from early ’50s to early ’70s.

The list of performers includes B.B. King (“You’re Breaking My Heart” and “Down Now”), the wonderfully soulful vocalist Jimmy Witherspoon (“I Need Somebody” and “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You”), and Lowell Fulson, who gets the driving title track and “Shattered Dreams.” The great Jimmy “T99” Nelson also gets a pair of selections, including his signature tune, “T99 Blues (My Sweet Little Honeydripper)” and “Second-Hand Fool,” and the criminally underrated Larry Davis introduces the album with a stunning take on King’s “Three O’Clock In The Morning” and the powerful “Something About You.”

Other artists you might recognize are T-Bone Walker (“Love Will Lead You Right”), Ray Charles (“I’m Wonderin’ and Wonderin’”), and Johnny Copeland (“Old Man Blues”). Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers, with Frankie Ervin singing lead, perform the novelty classic “Dragnet Blues,” and Saunders King sings the ballad “Quit Hangin’ Around Me.” A couple of ladies even get into the act, with Vivianne Green ably handling the smoky “A Picture Of You” and Mari Jones singing “Crazy With The Blues” and “It Just Wasn’t True.”

I still play Blues Around Midnight at least three or four times a month just to sit back and relax, and have been doing so in one format or another for over 30 years. It is perfect for late-night listening, and chances are pretty good that most blues fans will find themselves doing the same thing.

Ace originally released this album as an LP, then as a cassette, adding a pair of tracks. Flair Records reissued it in the early ’90s, and though it’s out of print now it can easily be found online in one format or another. Blues Around Midnight should be required listening for fans of mellow blues.

--- Graham Clarke



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