Lightnin’ Hopkins: live from a one-room apartment
2nd April 2017
Title: Lightnin’ Hopkins
Label: Vinyl Lovers
This LP has already been issued by Smithsonian/Folkways and was called The Roots of Lightnin’ Hopkins. Recorded back in 1959, this LP was one of the most important elements in the reintroduction of blues into the music firmament, at that time. It also, as you might expect, triggered new interest in Hopkins himself. Why? Because, before this LP was pressed, Hopkins had largely disappeared. In fact, Sam Charters (Ampex recording equipment and an EV 636 microphone in hand) had to look for the guy, eventually tracking him down in Houston. Hopkins was living in a cheap apartment, a one-room affair. Initially, Hopkins didn’t want to know about singing and recording again. But, hey, it’s amazing what a bottle go gin can do to ease a tense situation. So, Charters recorded Hopkins but, fearing that the gin effect would fade and Hopkins might just change his mind, the recording was done right there and then, in the single room apartment.
When Charters eventually left the room, he took with him one of the greatest blues albums in the Hopkins’ discography and one of the great blues albums of all time. The LP is quite disturbing in its delivery because it frets about a lack of hope or any escape. This is a wretched and crestfallen man, bathing in the blues. It reveals Hopkins because Hopkins didn’t have time to build any wall or put on a show before the recording. It was also a time and a place that Charters captured.
This particular edition also arrives with two bonus tracks recorded in Houston, the following month: The Foot Race is On and So Long Baby.
Sound quality is sparse, intimate, stripped but it engages on a emotional level. Mastering has been well handled. Tonal balance is excellent while clarity is admirable considering the circumstances.