Lightnin' Hopkins

From the Vaults of Everest

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The Collectables reissue label is responsible for more than 15 entries to the 21st century Lightnin' Hopkins digital discography. These include a Hopkins sampler simply titled Blues; two volumes devoted to the high voltage Herald recordings of 1954; The Lost Texas Tapes (a sizeable archive of privately recorded material spread over five discs), and two compilations combining four albums from the mid-'60s originally issued on LPs as part of the Everest Archive of Folk series. The Everest recordings were premiered on CD in 1990 as the Golden Classics set; this same collection reappeared with the more specific title From the Vaults of Everest in 2001. The albums, originally titled Drinkin' in the Blues, Prison Blues, Mama and Papa Hopkins and Nothin' But the Blues, add up to 63 choice cuts, both solo and ensemble, recorded in the studio and live in coffeehouses. Lightnin' strikes deep into the root strata of the tradition with "See See Rider," "Trouble in Mind" (à la Furry Lewis) and "When the Saints Go Marching In." He regularly taps into the rockin' boogie woogie vein, sounding a lot like Rev. Gary Davis during "Bottle It Up and Go," covering "What'd I Say" by Ray Charles and tearing up during "Get Off My Toe" and "Long Gone Like a Turkey Through the Corn." Caught in front of a live audience, he obviously enjoys kicking back and telling stories ("Big Black Cadillac Blues," "Big Car Blues"). This anthology contains the essence of Lightnin' Hopkins. It illuminates his links with the canon of classic blues ("I've Been Buked and Scorned" contains direct quotes from Blind Willie Johnson) and the rural Afro-American experience ("Cotton" directly references the life of backbreaking agricultural labor that Hopkins roundly rejected when he chose to become an itinerant musician.) For a prime example of the role that he played in the development of the modern electric blues guitar tradition, go directly to "Guitar Lightnin'."

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