Cleveland Fats
The Other Side of Midnight
Wild Dog Blues 9113-2
Let's get the name thing out of the way: The "Fats" moniker is not inspiring. There is probably a "Fats" and/or a "Slim" working the scene in most blues markets of any consequence. There's even a "Slim Fatz" prowling the Atlanta circuit.

That aside, Cleveland Fats' The Other Side of Midnight is an enjoyable, deeply traditional blues album in tone and content, although one that offers few surprises. Fats' vocals and guitar tone are styled along the lines of classic '50s Chicago blues, and several tracks are flavored by a tasty horn section.

Fats (Mark Hahn) has worked in Robert Jr. Lockwood's band for more than 17 years. The restrained, understated approach that characterizes much of his mentor's work has clearly rubbed off. Overall, it's successful, though such a laid-back style has its drawbacks, principally in that the band never really cuts loose.

One other negative: The harp work, particularly Hahn's one-song contribution, doesn't measure up to the professional standards of the rest of the recording.

In addition to Lockwood, Hahn cites as influences B.B. King, Freddie King, Muddy Waters and T-Bone Walker. Hahn doesn't have the distinctive personal style that made each of those artists instantly recognizable. However, he does successfully create an ambiance on The Other Side of Midnight, both vocally and instrumentally, that is true to the traditions those classic artists established.

-- Bryan Powell

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Boulder, CO, USA.