Hello Central: The Best of Lightnin' Hopkins
First Appeared in The Music Box, July 2004, Volume 11, #7
Written by John Metzger
Born in 1912, Sam "Lightnin’" Hopkins played a crucial role in the development of Texas blues, but the advent of rock ’n‘ roll, combined with his reluctance to alter his style, left him nearly forgotten until the advent of the ’60s folk revival. Like many of his peers, he re-emerged briefly only to see his popularity wane as mainstream fashion turned its attention elsewhere. Nevertheless, he continued to tour and record until his death in 1982, remaining a favorite among blues enthusiasts, if not the public at large. The recently released Hello Central: The Best of Lightnin’ Hopkins is somewhat of a misnomer, simply because it focuses upon a very small portion of Hopkins’ estimable career — all 20 of its tracks were recorded between 1950 and 1951 — and it omits such notable compositions as Katie Mae, Penitentiary Blues, and Mojo Hand. Still it’s a remarkably strong collection, one that highlights his dexterous skill as a guitarist, his masterfully mournful vocals, and his talent as an improvisational troubadour. On each track, Hopkins’ allows each turn of phrase to hang in the air as he picks some of the most intricate and moving guitar accompaniments this side of Mississippi John Hurt. Many of the songs are anguished laments, though his pained delivery is more than just a tad compelling, and when he breaks into a shuffling rhythm as he does on Gotta Move and Coffee Blues, he demonstrates that he easily could have given Chuck Berry a run for his money. In total, Hello Central hardly scratches the surface of Hopkins’ recordings, especially since he released more music during his lifetime than virtually any other bluesman, but it does offer an insightful glimpse into an extremely fruitful period of his magnificent legacy. ½
Of Further Interest...
Mississippi John Hurt - Vanguard Visionairies
Skip James - Rare and Unreleased
Roots of Folk / Roots of the Blues (Vanguard Records)
Hello Central: The Best of Lightnin' Hopkins is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box