Monday, March 21, 2011

Lightnin' Hopkins - Lightnin' And The Blues (The Herald Sessions) - 2001.


Lightnin' Hopkins' many albums are remarkably consistent (or all of them sound the same, depending on the way you want to phrase it), featuring his semi-improvised autobiographical lyrics sung over a stock set of slow blues riffs, with the occasional speeded-up boogie tossed in, and now and then a turn at the piano. Whether Hopkins played acoustic or electric guitar really didn't make much difference in his sound, Lightnin' was Lightnin' either way. While this set of recordings he made for New York-based Herald Records (the actual sessions were held in Houston) in 1954 with drummer Ben Turner and bassist Donald Cooks doesn't deviate much from the stock Hopkins template, it is particularly sharp, featuring some of the best electric guitar he ever played. The songs themselves are short, sweet, and to the point, often trailing off after a couple of verses, which gives sides like "Life I Used to Live" an added poignancy while adding an intangible sincerity to cuts like "Don't Think Cause You're Pretty." Hopkins also amps up on guitar more than usual, particularly with the blistering "Hopkins' Sky Hop," making the Herald recordings essential for Hopkins fans. Lightnin' cut 26 tracks at the sessions, 12 of which were originally released on LP as Lightnin' and the Blues in 1960, and then reissued in that sequence numerous times under different titles, including My Baby's Gone in 2005 by Fruit Tree Records, and simply as Lightnin' Hopkins by Dressed to Kill in 2001. Buddha released Lightnin' and the Blues in 2001 with four bonus tracks from the sessions added, while London's Ember Records collected all 26 Herald sides on one disc as Remember Me in 2000. Whatever the version, these are some of the best and most focused tracks Lightnin' Hopkins ever cut.

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