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Ace (CDCH2 1259)

Want to know what sheer bliss is? It's sitting back listening to Lightnin' Hopkins on this new Ace CD. It's so good, I got carried away and forgot I was meant to be reviewing it!

This is essentially a 44 track career overview from his prodigious output during his surprisingly short span of music making from 1947 to 1969. For 23 years he wowed his audiences at house parties, juke joints, pubs, bars, big city folk clubs, universities and concert halls while he put out records on labels like Score, RPM, Aladdin, Gold Star, Imperial, Sittin' In With, Decca, Herald, TNT, Tradition, Sue, Vee-Jay, Bluesville, Arhoolie, Vanguard, Guest Star, Fontana, Jewel, Vault and Prestige.

Ace have compiled this set as the soundtrack to Alan Govenar's biography Lightnin' Hopkins: His Life And Blues (available at Red Lick right now) and it includes some hits, tracks from rare singles, obscure LP cuts, live shots and a previously unissued recording from Vanguard (Trouble In Mind) and another from Specialty (Ain't No Monkey Man). As you'd expect from Ace the sound is astounding. Every note comes out strong and clear with just the slightest hint of atmospheric hiss kept to a minimum to create a great listening experience.

The superb One Kind Favor, Give Me Central 209 and Policy Game from his 1950's ‘Sittin In With' sessions gel perfectly with the almost rock'n'roll stuff from Decca in 1958 when he recorded the booming I'm Wild About You Baby and Highway Blues with their way out guitar sound. Hard Texas blues is here too from his great Gold Star recordings which include the brooding Tim Moore's Farm and the real down home mood of Short Haired Woman that has Lightnin's distinctive hard backbeat and mouth-watering eccentric runs on the top strings.

You get some all-time classics too like Aladdin's single Katie Mae Blues, TNT's Moanin' Blues and the 1961 Fire single Mojo Hand. Equally exciting performances have been taken from later Prestige, Vee-Jay, Guest Star and Arhoolie LPs with knockout tracks including the spine-chillingly, intimate Slavery Time and Bud Russell Blues made for Arhoolie in Lightnin's apartment in 1967, a boppin' version of Black Cadillac from a 1962 Bluesville LP and Change My Way Of Livin' - a song of regret perfectly suited to the slow intricate blues lines hammered out by Lightnin's plangent electric guitar.

What ever he sang about, whether it was John Glenn, Ida Mae, Katie Mae, kewpie dolls, chicken shacks, short haired women or sugar mamas - Lightnin' Hopkins was magnificent. No self-respecting blues fan should be without this CD.


Review Date: July 2010

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