Lightnin' Hopkins was simply one of a kind - his time was his time and that was that! You either played by his rules and time, or you incurred the wrath and stares he was sometimes known for. There's a ton of Lightnin' Hopkins available on CD, currently somewhere in the vicinity of 200 titles, but this is the best he ever did. Stripped down, raw, and playing some of the most smokin' electric Blues ever waxed, if you add one Lightnin' CD to your collection, by all means, make it this one. It's worth the small sum asked by many online retailers.
All cut in 1954, this is smoldering, gutbucket work by a master. When smaller labels were reissuing Blues in the 70's and 80's, the folks at Diving Duck put this out as a separate 2 LP set. It was on the expensive side then (I remember what I paid for the pair), but at around $10.00 for the 26 track disc, this is definitely the way to have it, and to my knowledge, it's the only legitimate CD available with his work for the Herald label. Accompanied by his stinging electric guitar, the bass work of Donald Cooks, and a still-unidentified drummer, this is the stuff that legends are made of. Comprised of two sessions, both which are amazing, Lightnin' blazes through a set of awesome Blues as only he could. The first session is more relaxed, and introspective, laced with slow Blues and mournful lyrics. "Lightnin's Boogie" and "Lightnin's Special" are at faster tempos and full of the fleet-fingered fretwork he laid down for a number of labels. "Lonesome In Your Home" is a gritty piece, as is the title track, but the initial session produced the classic "Don't Think 'Cause You're Pretty" where Lightnin' reminds his woman that she'll only tear her own reputation down unless she's more careful. Guitar Slim's instantly recognizable licks from "The Things I Used To Do" crop up a few times, but nowhere more evident than on "Life I Used To Live," which also is closely related in its lyrics.
The second session starts with "Grandma's Boogie" and it's clear that Hopkins was in better spirits as he powers through a storming Texas shuffle chock full of ringing guitar notes, quick bursts of fury, and some of the most distorted rhythm playing ever. The lowdown "My Baby's Gone" is a striking slow Blues with some killer drum work and brilliant dynamics, and makes way for the smoldering "Early Morning Boogie." The simple 'two-and-four' pattern from the snare drum drives the cut along, but it's Lightnin's exuberance that stands tall here as he yells and shouts at the top of his lungs, all the while wringing more distorted clusters of notes out of an amp that sounds as if it were on fire at the time! "Movin' On Out Boogie" is another driving two minutes of guitar, but it's "Hopkins' Sky Hop" that pulls out all the stops as Lightnin' flails along with the band at a breakneck pace, never missing a beat. "Evil Hearted Woman" rolls back the speed and is another great couple of minutes of singing and playing. "Don't Need No Job" storms along and makes way for the slow and wonderful "Blues For My Cookie" loaded with twisted guitar work, plus the understated brilliance of his cohorts backing him. Younger players should make note of the duo behind the leader as they lay a perfect backdrop for Lightnin' to work from. "Had A Gal Named Sal" is an improvised collection of lyrics with Hopkins talking about falling in a barrel with his woman! "They Wonder Who I Am" broils along quickly, but the brooding "Nothin But The Blues," full of accents and tough dynamics, is pure genius. Ruth Ames takes the vocals on "That's Alright Baby" and "Finally Met My Baby" as Lightnin' joins in for a verse or two, and his restrained playing is perfection again. The disc closes out with Lightnin' charging things up on "My Little Kewpie Doll" and finally slowing it down on "Wonder What Is Wrong With Me."
At a bargain price (with a lengthy playing time of about 70 minutes and fine packaging), it's worth the few dollars and the time invested in finding "Remember Me" - The Complete Herald Singles - by Lightnin' Hopkins. Long before his 'discovery' in 1959 and later extensive catalog, this is pure meat and no filler. There isn't much out there by this artist that isn't worth having, but this one isn't worth missing out on either. No matter what Hopkins discs you have, if this isn't one of them, it should be! When I hit the website looking for a picture of the CD, I found no mention of it, and their distribution list has no mention of the Ember label. It is easily available at a number of online CD shops though. music@tko/magnum.co.uk is for email and the web is www.tko/magnum.co.uk If you stop in, ask them why they have no listing of this gem.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Craig Ruskey, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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