Lightnin' Hopkins

Blues Kingpins

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Lightnin' Hopkins ability to take a stock kit bag of boogie riffs and spin endlessly varied blues-based lyrics over the top of them, usually personalizing the story just enough to keep things fresh, served him well throughout his career, but he was arguably at his best at the very start of that career before constant label hopping seemingly became his secondary occupation. This succinct set collects some of Hopkins' very earliest recordings for the Aladdin, RPM and Modern labels, beginning with his impressive 1946 debut on Aladdin, "Katie Mae Blues." Before this recording he was known as Sam Hopkins, but since "Katie Mae" paired him with pianist Wilson "Thunder" Smith, Sam was renamed Lightnin', and the name stuck long after Thunder ceased to be a part of the equation. Also here is the fine "Tim Moore Blues" and a blistering electric take on "Jake Head Boogie." There are literally hundreds of Hopkins releases on the market, most of which deliver variations on the same set of goods, and this set isn't radically different in that regard. Hopkins' never appreciably changed his style in the coming decades (which is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on one's tolerance), but these at least are some of the sides that got the whole thing rolling, and they seem the fresher for it.

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