This first installment in the complete chronological recordings of Lightnin' Hopkins opens with 14 sides he cut for the Aladdin label in Los Angeles on November 9, 1946, and August 15, 1947. Unlike most of Hopkins' austere solo recordings, the first four tracks feature pianist Thunder Smith, who sings a bit like Washboard Sam or Tampa Red. Indeed, both "Can't Do Like You Used To" and "Little Mama Boogie" could easily pass for something out of the Bluebird Chicago jump blues catalog. The other ten titles are the earliest recorded examples of the distinctive Lightnin' Hopkins style, whereby he sounds like a dry Southwestern cousin to Furry Lewis, Mississippi John Hurt, or Fred McDowell. Eventually the piano completely disappears, as the guitarist creates his own private, slow, and reflective space. The other extreme is reached in the form of smoking duets with a nameless drummer, the rocking "Big Mama Jump" (a sequel to "Little Mama Boogie"), and a brisk cover of Tampa Red's cheerfully bawdy "Let Me Play with Your Poodle." Back in Houston a few months later, Hopkins cut his first two sides for the Gold Star label, close covers of his own "Short Haired Woman" and "Big Mama Jump" (now sporting licks that would later resurface in Willie Dixon's "Mellow Down Easy" and Elmore James' "Shake Your Money Maker"). Hopkins finished off 1947 and forged ahead into the following year by recording eight more sides for Aladdin. Though credited to Hopkins in the discography, "Someday Baby," also redone here as "You Are Not Going to Worry My Life Anymore," actually came from Big Maceo Merriweather. Incredibly, "Nightmare Blues" was issued "as is" with periodic microphone feedback interrupting the vocal. Why nobody thought to record a second take remains a mystery.
AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf