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VOICES Notes and news on Digital releases

In Hogg Heaven

27 JUL 09 ANNE FARNSWORTH

Angels In Harlem is a compilation of recordings made in the early-'50s by Andrew "Smokey" Hogg, a singer in the Texas Blues style, a genre considered one of the purest descendants of 19th century African-American vocal music.

Personified by Lightnin' Hopkins and T-Bone Walker, Texas bluesman were the wandering outsiders who sang of love, pain and paying the rent. Although never as famous as them, Hogg enjoyed some renown, scoring hits with sides made in Dallas, Houston and Los Angeles. He had enough of a following that a singer named Willie Hogg appropriated the "Smokey" nickname after Andrew passed away.

Listening to Angels In Harlem, one hears strains of bluegrass, boogie woogie and the shuffle beat that was the backbone of early rock & roll. The twangy, slightly off-tuned acoustic guitar so emblematic of rural blues meets a violin and saxophone reminiscent of Texas swing. In other words, history in a disc.

Now available in the Digital Only section, the 2.5-minute length of these recordings may be curious to younger listeners. But in this age of text and tweet, the quickly sketched vignettes of the 22 selections are perfectly timed.