Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lightnin' Hopkins - Mojo Hand

I love Blues music. I only have a handful of Blues records, and I don't listen to them terribly often, but whenever I do, or whenever I'm at a bar or restaurant playing the blues, I feel a visceral change come over me. My friends call it my "blues face." There's no other form of music that hits me in quite the same way.

A few of my favorite artists (Townes Van Zandt and Deer Tick, to name two) list Sam "Lightnin' Hopkins" as among their biggest influences, but the boxed set Mojo Hand is my first exposure to his work. I knew of Lightnin' Hopkins as a guitar blues master, but I was unprepared for his range. He employs pre-rock 'n roll riffs ("Coffee Blues"), folks fingerpicking ("Shaggy Dad") and even a couple piano romps ("Los Angeles Boogie"). Vocals range from storytelling (Mr. Charlie Part I) to . Lyrical content spans from thinly-veiled euphemisms ("Play With Your Poodle") to gospel ("Needed Time"). Covers, originals, electric, acoustic, solo, with accompanyment - Po' Lightnin' can do it all. The best, though - the ones that give me the blues face - are the unaccompanied electric tracks where he alternates vocal lines with guitar riffs. "Automobile" is a fine example. These tracks make me feel like I'm in a smoky bar drinking whisky. It's no mistake that many of the images in the liner notes show Lightnin' with a cigarette or a flask - this is largely music from That Place.

This compilation is sadly out of print. You can find used copies on Amazon (below). I got my copy at local used record store Nuggets. There are many other collections of his work, but Mojo Hand's 41 tracks collect a great cross-section of work.

Buy it from Amazon:
Mojo Hand: The Anthology

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