Lightnin’ Hopkins: Lightnin’

The bluesman's 1960 album bucked the Chicago electric blues trend, presenting him in an acoustic trio setting that suggested jazz

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This album could be described as the jazz enthusiast’s blues record. Hopkins went against what was blues fashion in his day – Chicago electric blues – and played acoustic guitar, singing with just bass and drums alongside him. Gaskin and Evans are ideal supporters, experienced jazz men both, and provide sturdy rhythmic support throughout. The bassist’s lines are unadulterated and Evans is on wire brushes all through, gently propelling the leader.

Hopkins always told a story in each selection, playing improvised solos between vocals. He had, unlike many bluesmen, a very good command of his instrument too. Raw and simple it may have been, but his single-note lines are always interesting and inventive. Hopkins occasionally borrows from other bluesmen’s tales and stock phrases, but he always adapts them to his personal style.

Whether he is Thinking ’Bout An Old Friend, indulging in The Walkin’ Blues or extolling the virtues of Daisy Mae, he is always fully committed to a strong blues line and his storytelling talent. On Back To New Orleans, it is the familiar “Baby please don’t go,” but with a Hopkins bounce added. The Lightnin’ plea is also there – “If you must go, take me witcha.” On You Better Watch Yourself, Lightnin’ builds his solo on a familiar bass line between two short vocals.

The album was originally made for Prestige and benefits from a bright Rudy Van Gelder recording. Two bonus tracks add extra value and include a solo See See Rider by Ma Rainey.


Discography
Automobile Blues; You Better Watch Yourself; Mean Old Frisco; Shinin’ Moon; Comeback Baby; Hello Central (Give Me 209); Thinking ’Bout An Old Friend; The Walkin’ Blues; Back To New Orleans; Katie Mae; Down There Baby; See See Rider (45.39)
Hopkins (v, g); Leonard Gaskin (b); Belton Evans (b). Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 9 November 1960, New York 1951 & Texas 1959.
Blues Joint 8004