Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lightnin' Hopkins - The Gold Star Sessions, Vol. 1 (Arhoolie, 1993)

These rare early recordings of the great blues guitarist and singer Lightnin' Hopkins were recorded in Houston between 1947 - 1950 and remastered from acetates and 78 rpm records in the early 1990's. Capturing Hopkins in his purest form, mostly unaccompanied with just his wry voice and guitar, this makes for a fascinating listen. Hopkins was a songster who took material from wherever he could find it, be that a blues standard like Big Joe Williams "Baby Please Don't Go" or his own topical (and risky) blues "Tim Moore's Farm." In this amazing song, Hopkins lays bare the facts of plantation life. Told that his wife has died, the protagonist asks the bossman for permission to attend the burial and is denied with a vicious racial slur. This song and the haunting "Death Bells" are among the deepest of the deep blues, but it is not all heartbreak and desperation. "Lightnin' Boogie" shows Hopkins' idiosyncratic guitar style in full bloom, while "Bid Mama Jump" and "Treat Me Kind" would have been popular in the taverns and juke joints of the Gulf Coast where Hopkins plied his trade. Overall, this was a very good album and the performances are first rate throughout. The sound quality is a little rough in spots, but nothing that blues fans haven't heard before.
Gold Star Sessions, Vol. 1 - amazon.com

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