R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax
VOICES Notes and news on R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax releases
21 MAR 08 DAVID NATHAN
By the late-'50s, music fans on both sides of the Atlantic were discovering the down-home blues of artists like Lightnin' Hopkins. The Best Of Lightnin' Hopkins, a 16-track set is a fine example of the kind of real-life music that made the singer/songwriter and guitarist so influential to a whole generation of '60s teens.
Recorded for the Prestige label between 1960-1964 (the longest period the bluesman spent with any one record company), the CD offers 14 of Hopkins' compositions, including three new versions of songs he had cut earlier in his career: "Katie Mae," "Automobile Blues" and "Mojo Hand." As blues expert Lee Hildebrand reminds us in the liner notes, Hopkins had five national R&B hits between 1949 and 1952 but refused to tour. By the early-'60s, embraced by the folk music movement, Lightnin' was traveling the country and venturing to Europe, where audiences warmed to his basic country blues style.
Check out "Last Night Blues," a simmering standout, conveying the honest emotion that has always made the blues such an endearing art form. "Good Morning Little School Girl" is as sly and naughty as its title implies and these days might raise a few eyebrows among conservative media watchdogs that might consider a song recorded by a 49-year-old man a little worrisome.
"Happy Blues For John Glenn" was indeed written for the pioneering astronaut who orbited the earth in 1962 and like all of the material on this fine collection reflects the legendary bluesman's approach to his music, as writer Hildebrand notes quoting him from a 1960 conversation, "All that has happened to me is liable to get into my songs." Like all great music, Lightnin' Hopkins sang, wrote and played from life experience and that alone makes his work timeless.
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