Agony Shorthand

Saturday, March 08, 2003
SOME POST-WAR BLUES GENIUS….My pick for top post-WWII bluesman is hands-down Mr. Lightning Hopkins. When I first heard a full Hopkins record, it was on what remains to this day my favorite work of his, the languid, aching 1947-1950 sessions recorded at the Gold Star Studios in Houston, Texas. These sessions are packed with deep, rural-evoking sounds and are marked by Lightning’s almost tired-sounding voice (check out "Tim Moore's Farm" -- what a dis!). His trademark guitar introduction to almost every song (if you know his stuff, you know the two-note sound I’m talking about) debuted during these sessions, which were recorded just after he’d had a couple of minor “hits” with his first records “Katie Mae” and “Short Haired Woman”. He’d just finished his association playing with early blues great Texas Alexander and with “Thunder” Smith around the state, and he was now off on his own for good. These recordings are now easily found on two separately-sold Arhoolie CDs called “The Gold Star Sessions”, an absolute must for any right-thinking blues hound. Between the two CDs are 48 tracks and 135 minutes of music, most with a slow, unforced, downright sad pacing and a real haunted guitar sound. They even include some halfway decent zydeco if you’re into that sort of thing. True lights-out music for bad times.