R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

Lightnin' Gone Bluesville


You can't tell that the early 1960s were a time of such tumultuous change (in society and music) from the rock-solid, timeless sound of Lightnin' Hopkins' The Complete Prestige/Bluesville Recordings (Prestige, 1991), a seven-CD box which presents more than 100 songs that this Texas blues legend recorded for these two labels between 1960 and 1964.

There's better introduction to Hopkins' homespun Texas picking and strumming than The Complete, which includes more than 30 unaccompanied tunes, several intimate college concerts, and interview segments where he shares his earliest blues experiences and deepest blues roots.

Hopkins' trademark rough and tumble but playful sound proves essential yet elusive. Sonny Terry's harmonica and voice seem to flow as naturally as maple syrup into "Conversation Blues," a highlight of Hopkins' rapport with this blues legend. Lightnin's voice overflows with hurt and wisdom in his cautionary "Automobile Blues" (when he moans, "Your car looks so pretty baby, please let me drive sometime," you can tell he's not talking about her vehicle). "Come Back Baby" and "Thinkin' 'Bout an Old Friend" are so basic they transcend the blues form into a primal experience that's simultaneously petition, prayer and praise. You may already know "Back To New Orleans" as "Baby Please Don't Go."

If seven CDs is more blues than you can use, several individual titles comprised herein remain available including Last Night Blues with Terry (Original Blues Classics, 1992) and the live sets Hootin' The Blues (OBC, 1994) and The Swarthmore Concert (OBC, 1993).