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The Blues Anthology

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Album Review

Lightnin' Hopkins had a kit bag of slow blues riffs, a talent for improvising up-to-the-minute lyrics to go with them, and a general distrust of the recording industry that kept him bouncing from label to label for one-off albums in which he always made sure he got his money upfront before he played a note. His recorded legacy is remarkably consistent for all of this label-hopping, though, and when you pick up a Hopkins collection, you can be pretty sure of what you'll get. The Blues Anthology includes all nine original tracks from a 1960 session for Bobby Robinson's Fire Records that was eventually released as Mojo Hand, plus nine additional tracks that Robinson held back at the time, plus a handful of other sides, including Hopkins' interesting cover of Charles Brown's "Drifting Blues," a R&B hit for Brown in 1945, all adding up to a generous disc of Lightnin' that comes in just a shade under 80 minutes in length. Among the highlights are "Mojo Hand," a riveting Christmas blues called "Santa," and the movingly poetic "Shine on, Moon!" There's nothing too startling, but the spare, ragged arrangements (usually just Hopkins on acoustic guitar, occasionally accompanied by a drummer) allow Hopkins plenty of room to do what he does. Decently priced, The Blues Anthology makes a credible introduction to this crafty, laconic bluesman.


Born: 15 March 1912 in Centerville, TX

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

Sam Hopkins was a Texas country bluesman of the highest caliber whose career began in the 1920s and stretched all the way into the 1980s. Along the way, Hopkins watched the genre change remarkably, but he never appreciably altered his mournful Lone Star sound, which translated onto both acoustic and electric guitar. Hopkins' nimble dexterity made intricate boogie riffs seem easy, and his fascinating penchant for improvising lyrics to fit whatever situation might arise made him a beloved blues troubadour....
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