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Travis “Moonchild” Haddix - Daylight at Midnight

Some men are destined to wear a red tuxedo jacket with sequined lapels on an album cover. Travis “Moonchild” Haddix is one of them, and thank the stars for him. Daylight at Midnight shimmies and sways, and never strays very far from its roots. This is an electric blues album in the classic sense, and Haddix doesn’t simply go through the motions. “Moonchild” is a bluesman in the truest sense, and he’ll strut and swagger until he’s convinced you that that red tuxedo is his by divine right.

A brass section can make or break a blues recording. If hackneyed-sounding and out of place, horns can be the kiss of death. But if properly arranged and produced, a trumpet and a couple of saxophones can make a great song even better. Jeff Hager, Daylight’s horn arranger, does his duty to place Haddix’s album in the latter category. Even on tracks that miss their mark (like the weepy “Who Could I Be?”), the horn section keeps everything nice and listenable.

Haddix is no slouch, either. His guitar work is energetic, and his solos and fills all have an admirable conciseness to them. Matters are helped further by the fact that Haddix is a great songwriter. It’s a rare blues album that’ll actually impress with lyrics, but Haddix’s songs all have the air of accessibility to them, and are often downright clever, like the halfway penitent “Nine Behind.” His vocals are equally accessible, containing both a rough, unhewn quality, but also impeccable timing and a very good sense of dynamic shifts.

The best part of Daylight at Midnight is that it’s full of surprises, the first surprise being that Haddix isn’t a higher profile performer. A heavy majority of the ten tracks on Daylight are downright terrific, and all in different ways. Even if the previously mentioned “Who Could I Be?” drags things down momentarily, one still must give Haddix credit for trying something different. This is especially true when many of the album’s exceptional moments come from a little ingenuity, like the highlight track “What To Do.”

Like many blues recordings, Daylight at Midnight hints at the live power of a performer like Haddix. But unlike these recordings, Haddix’s Daylight doesn’t suffer as a result. Everything is so dynamically and evenly produced that even though the recording doesn’t have the fire of live performance underneath, you’ll swear that hearing the material live would simply be icing on an otherwise delicious cake. Eat up.

Reviewed by John McCormick

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