39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
It's encouraging to hear contemporary artists like Keb Mo', Robert Cray, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd carry on the blues tradition into the new millennium. However, I'm always drawn back to the originals like Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Howlin' Wolf and of course Lightnin' Hopkins.
This newly packaged collection of songs from Rhino is an excellent companion to Rhino's 1993 anthology Mojo Hand. The Very Best of duplicates seven tracks from that release and focuses on Hopkins' work from 1947 to 1961, but offers enough new material to make this a worthwhile purchase. And with Hopkins' lack of loyalty to any one record label, no fewer than seven different labels are represented on this 16-track collection.
On many of these songs Hopkins performs solo accompanying himself on guitar (and adding piano on "Mighty Crazy"). On a handful of tracks he is backed by a bass player and on "Shotgun Blues," a second guitarist. Only on "Conversation Blues" and "Last Night Blues" is there a full band of bass, drums and harmonica (provided by Sonny Terry) backing Hopkins.
This is an excellent introduction (or addition) for fans of acoustic Texas folk/blues performed by one of the genre's greatest practioners. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on August 17, 2006
The blues do not get any bluer than this. This was my first foray into Texas/folk blues, and it will most certainly not be my last, as the music on this CD are some of the most representative blues music I have ever heard. One of my favorite songs is a song sung by both Hopkins and Sonny Terry, Conversation Blues. If you do not like this song, the blues are simply not for you! But every song on here is exceptional, something I had not expected as I picked this up more out of curiosity than anything else. Now, it is one of my favorites to listen to, right up there with Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, and Muddy Waters. The album covers Hopkins career for a 20 year period, from 1941 to 1961, and is ideal for anyone who is starting out their Hopkins' collection(as I was).
Sam "Lightning" Hopkins learned the blues, at least in part, from Blind Lemon Jefferson, and for a time even became his guide. Let the music on this CD be your guide to Texas/folk blues. Surely there can be no better guide for an introduction into this genre.
A definite 5 star pick, especially for all that Rhino has managed to pack on here for the inexpensive price. A must have.
One thing to note however: If you believe from the outset that you will come to love Hopkins' music, Rhino's release of "Mojo Hand" is recommended; it is a 2-CD set of Hopkins career. Either way, you will not go wrong.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
If you are searching about for the definitive compilation containing the five national hit singles and their B-sides registered by Sam John Hopkins (born March 15, 1912 in Centerville, Texas and known professionally as Lightnin' Hopkins) from 1949 to 1952, you will not find them in one compact volume. I realize he, and the other great original Blues musicians, were much more than their minimal national commercial successes (he is reported to have recorded some 1,000 songs - certainly more than 800), but it is nevertheless frustrating when, despite volume after volume being offered, not even those blaring The Very Best Of, as with this otherwise great offering from Rhino in their Blues Masters series, delivers the goods in that respect.
His earliest and most lasting influences included another Blues legend, "Blind" Lemon Jefferson (born September 24, 1893 - died December 19, 1929), who he met in 1920 when just 8 years of age, as well as electric guitarist and older cousin Frankie Lee Sims (born April 30, 1917 in New Orleans - died May 10, 1970) and Alger "Texas" Alexander, supposedly another distant cousin and, some say, uncle of Sims (born September 12, 1900 - died April 18, 1954).
Sometime around 1935/36, Hopkins was sent to a prison farm for some vague offense, and by the end of the decade he joined Alexander in Houston where they tried in vain to break into the recording business. At the outbreak of WW II he was back in his home town labouring on a farm. After the war, he returned to Houston where he was discovered by Lola Anne Cullum, then employed by L.A.-based Aladdin Records.
After recording a number of sides at Aladdin in 1947 (where he was handed the nickname Lightnin' by the label, always looking for ways to spice up their artists), he returned to Houston where he would more or less remain right into the 1950s cutting records for Bill Quinn's Gold Star Records. Success came late as he was 37 years old at the time of his first national hit, Tim Moore's Farm, which came out in February 1949 on Gold Star 640 and made it to # 13 on what then passed for the R&B charts b/w You Don't Know. Neither side is here, nor is "T" Model Blues, his next hit which made it to # 8 R&B that October (it's B-side was Jail House Blues by cousin Frankie Lee Sims).
His next hit came in October 1950 when Aladdin released Shotgun Blues which reached # 5 R&B on Aladdin 45-3063 b/w Rollin' Blues (only the A-side is here). By late 1951 he was recording for the short-lived Sittin' In With label (folded in 1953) and in early March 1952 he took Give Me Central 209 (some pressings showed it as Hello Central) to # 6 R&B b/w New York Boogie on Sittin' In With 45-621, followed in late March by the # 6 R&B Coffee Blues b/w New Short Haired Woman on Sittin' In With 45-635. The two hit sides are here.
When the label folded, Hopkins joined Jax Records where they released a mix of new material and sides recorded at Sittin' In With. His Aladdin, Sittin' In With and Jax single releases are shown in the Comments below, while the songs recorded at Gold Star are listed alphabetically as, except for the hits mentioned, I don't know the label details or years of release of those released as singles. After disappearing from view for several years, Hopkins returned to the limelight in 1959 thanks to the renowned musicologist and folklorist Robert "Mack" McCormick who was instrumental in his appearance at Carnegie Hall in October 1960 alongside Joan Baez and Pete Seeger. That same year he landed a new recording deal with Diane Hamilton's Tradition Records, run for her by Patrick "Paddy" Clancy of The Clancy Brothers, where he would join the likes of Odetta, John Jacob Niles, and The Clancy Brothers And Tommy Makem. Probably his best recording there was 1960's Mojo Hand. A number of albums then followed right on into the 1970s. On January 30, 1982, he died of esophageal cancer back home in Houston at age 69.
As mentioned above, this is a well-produced volume of his music recorded between 1941 and 1961, but just 3 of his 5 hits are here. The sound quality is excellent and there are liner notes written by the well-known author David Ritz, who has written excellent biographies of such as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson.
Heard in this album alongside Lightnin' are pianist Thunder Smith, harmonica player Sonny Terry, guitarist Joel Hopkins, bass players Donald Cooks and Leonard Gaskin, and drummer Belton Evans.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The songs on this CD were recorded between 1946 and 1961. They cover a wide range of his songs. The instrumentation is spare, with--normally--only Hopkins or playing or only a couple other backing players (sometimes we don't even know who the other musicians were). This is unelectrified blues, hearkening back to an earlier era in the history of the blues.
A handful of examples of his work on this CD:
"Baby please don't go." The cut features simple and spare guitar work by Hopkins. The liner notes comment that (page 12): "They say he only knew three chords on the guitar. I say that made him greater. . . .I saw how he turned technical limitations to aesthetic advantage." He repeats the title line several times to set a tone and atmosphere and implores her not to go to New Orleans. Hopkins plays alone, with no backing instruments.
"Mighty Crazy", too, features no backing musicians. He surely displays a "lived in" voice. He begins the song, as with "Baby please don't go" with a repeat of the title four times.
Finally, "Mojo Hand," one of his better known works. This cut features a nice rhythm section backing him (musicians' names not known). This has some of the best recording quality on the CD. He shows animated singing and spare but effective guitar work.
The liner notes summarize Hopkins' place in the blues world (pages 11-12): "Lightnin' Sam Hopkins was one of the towering geniuses of American music. At a time when big-city blues was electrifying the world, Lightnin' brought us back to the basics. He infused his country sensibility and singular personality into every song he sang." This represents a nice introduction to the work of one of the finest blues players.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2013
Whoever your favorite Blues artist was probably borrowed something from this guy. He had it all, his own tunes and style that can not be topped, ever. Black Cadillac was the first really great car blues tune besides, of course "Terraplane Blues" by Robert Johnson. The man was a genius and his guitar work flawless.