Lightnin' Hopkins

The Essence of Lightnin' Hopkins

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Lightnin' Hopkins had a kit bag of slow blues riffs, a talent for improvising up-to-the-minute lyrics to go with them, and a general distrust of the recording industry that kept him bouncing from label to label for one-off singles and albums; he always made sure to get his money upfront before he played a note. Then he moved on. This two-disc set includes some of Hopkins' earliest, and arguably best, sides from a whole assortment of labels, including Aladdin, Modern/RPM, Gold Star, Jax, Mercury, and Decca. 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 striking example of the blues as personal catharsis, and when it failed to click, well, it sounded like any of a dozen other Hopkins songs. Tracked between 1946 and the early '50s, these sides are vintage Hopkins, recorded when his whole maverick Texas road show and shell game was still fresh and just beginning.

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