Lightnin' Hopkins

Talk of the Town

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Lightnin' Hopkins didn't sing songs so much as spontaneously make them up on the spot, pulling events from his daily life and matching them to one of his set blues riffs, and when the process worked, the results were a stunning example of the blues as personal catharsis, and when it failed to click, well, it sounded like any of a dozen other Hopkins songs. Add to this the fact that Hopkins often took adventuresome liberties with tempo and time, and he could be a handful for producers looking to jazz up his Texas country blues sound with added instrumentation. The tracks on this collection are split between a session in 1965 recorded for Verve and a 1969 session for Vault Records, and while there is no artistic reason for the two sessions to be melded together like this (save that these are 15 of the 27 tracks for which Prestige owns the licensing rights), the result is actually a pretty decent record, featuring the slickest sounding (relatively -- we're talking Lightnin' here) Hopkins you're ever going to encounter. Given a backing band of Earl Palmer on drums, Jimmy Bond on bass, and Joe "Streamline" Ewing on trombone, Hopkins turns in measured (for him) and almost jazzy renditions of "Shinin' Moon," "Talk of the Town," and "Shaggy Dog" (the title should probably be "Shaggy Dad," which is what Lightnin' appears to be singing, although it's impossible to be sure), and even with the unlikely trombone accompaniment, it all works. Mixed in are solo Hopkins tracks on both acoustic and electric guitar. Sometimes you can just grab a handful of stuff and throw it at the wall and it magically sticks there in a pleasing pattern. One suspects that's the case here. There are a lot of ways to the river. [This same set of tracks in a different sequence was issued in 1997 as Shake It Baby by Boomerang Records.]

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