Lightnin' Hopkins

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Lightnin' Hopkins

Postby blueswriter » Sun Jan 16, 2005 1:40 am

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Jan-15-05 AT 09:31 PM (EST)]Lightnin' Hopkins
Blowin' The Fuses
Empire (2004) 6342 ... opkins.jpg

20 tracks, 78 minutes. Excellent. Picking out worthwhile recordings by Lightnin' Hopkins can be associated with shooting fish in a barrel - it's almost as easy as looking through a variety of titles and then just pulling one out - and your chances are better than good that you'll find it loaded with great lyrics, brilliant guitar playing, and a voice that will remind you of an old friend. Blowin' The Fuses is as good a place to start as any as it features mid-period Hopkins recorded between 1959 and 1965, with Lightnin' playing solo on half the cuts, or accompanied by a small, in-the-pocket band on the balance of tracks. The band tracks from 1965 (Good Times/Goin' To Dallas/Fugitive Blues/Goin' Back Home/Keep Movin' On/Don't Wake Me/Mojo Hand/Little Wail/Shaggy Dog) find Lightnin' in the company of Jimmy Bond's bass and Earl Palmer's granite-solid drumming, with two cuts featuring the trombone swoops of John "Streamline" Ewing, and Hopkins is up to his usual standard of skillful guitar work playing seemingly effortless rhythm and deft bursts of fills. The solo tracks from 1959 (Gonna Pull A Party/Baby/Backwater Blues/Trouble In Mind/That Gamblin' Life/Get Off My Toe/In The Evening/75 Highway/Short Haired Woman/Santa Fe) find Lightnin' sitting alone for the most part with an acoustic guitar, although Baby has Luke "Long Gone" Miles helping out with some stunning vocals, while Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee are along for the closing track. Blowin' The Fuses shows, as most recordings by Lightnin' Hopkins do, a master craftsman sculpting his art, unaware of anything but what he was singing about at the time.

Lightnin' Hopkins
Hello Central
Columbia/Legacy (2004) 86988 ... 520738.jpg

20 tracks, 57 minutes. Highly recommended. As much as the opening statement in the above review is true, if you truly want to start with essential material from Lightnin' Hopkins, this recent compilation from the vaults of the Jax and Sittin' In With labels can't be recommended highly enough. Stemming from recording dates in Houston and New York in 1950/51, this is prime and primal blues. Alone for the most part, Hopkins is other-worldly on a collection of tracks that range from the brooding Home In The Woods (No Good Woman) or Broken Hearted Blues to the up-tempo boogie of the rollicking, good-time Gotta Move and the Texas porch stomp of Buck Dance Boogie (Papa Bones Boogie). The opening line of Freight Train makes this worth the purchase price alone to hear Sam spell out his intent... "Show me where to cut his throat, boys, man 'cause I'm gon' kill him dead!" His guitar playing throughout is laced with rapidly picked clusters and fills, topped off with shimmering vibrato that spells instant Hopkins, and his voice is as strong here as it ever was; witness the throbbing Everybody's Down On Me or the guttural moans in I'm Begging You for proof. As utterly brilliant as Lightnin' Hopkins was from the outset of his career to end of his massive recorded legacy, Hello Central has twenty tracks showing what some collectors feel is the absolute best there is in a discography that reads like a city register. There will be no arguments from this desk. For those who don't have this material yet, it makes for essential listening to hear the Texas titan throw down in his prime For those who might have this on aging vinyl (or inferior CD copies), the remastered sound is bright, crisp, and ultimately pleasing, and Bill Dahl's detailed liner notes and session information round out a top pick of 2004. ... 86988-legs

© 2004 by Craig Ruskey
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