Lightnin' Hopkins

Blues Biography

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Lightnin' Hopkins has perhaps the largest and most complicated discography in all of the blues. The Texas guitarist recorded for well over 20 different labels in his long career, and his material has been reissued repeatedly -- under constantly changing album titles as well -- so if a collection isn't really annotated (and this one isn't), it can be close to impossible to discern the sources of the various tracks. Luckily, Hopkins never changed his basic style from one recording date to the next, whether he was playing acoustic guitar or electric, and his entire body of work features the same sort of ragged, loose-metered, and midtempo boogie blues, so making distinctions between his various tracking dates is probably of crucial interest only to blues scholars and collectors who feel compelled to keep tabs on such things. This set appears to be drawn largely from his Aladdin sides (Hopkins recorded for Aladdin Records from 1946 to 1948), with a couple of live cuts and a handful of early-'60s Prestige and Bluesville selections tossed in, although it's difficult to tell, since the CD booklet gives only the broadest rundown of Hopkins' life and career and offers no specific recording information at all. There are some standouts here, though, including the acoustic lead track, "Shake That Thing," a solo acoustic "Honey Babe," the electric "Sugar on My Mind," and the elegant -- at least for Lightnin' -- "Shinin' Blues." A track called "Rain" is also worth noting, since it features trombone and a rhythm section. This is an OK collection as far as it goes, but without any real annotation, it's just one of countless such Hopkins sets out on the market, and to call it a "blues biography" and not ground it in even a cursory discography is a bit ridiculous.

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