This is a good collection of piano-accompanied vocals sporting bluesmen who worked the lumber camps and oil fields of rural Texas, as well as the red-light districts of cities like Galveston and Houston. Big Boy Knox shows a strong city influence in his decorative right-hand work, as does Robert Cooper, whose playing points to the influence of Fats Waller. Joe Pullem is on board with his hit, "Black Gal," which is perhaps overstated by three takes and a variation. The vocals are good, however, and the piano playing is uniformly excellent. Stylistically, this music falls somewhere between ragtime, blues, and vaudeville.
The Blues Masters series, much to Rhino`s credit, adopts an expansive definition of blues, allowing the likes of Count Basie, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Muddy Waters and even Louis Prima admission. There is none of the purist`s quibbling over strict 12-bar form or the relative significance of prewar and postwar styles.
What Rhino delivers instead is the blues in all its myriad guises. This music is old and new, black and white, acoustic and electric, folksy and jazzy, performed by women and men, and yet it is all still blues at its core.
Lightnin' Hopkins' plaintive, soft-rolling blues style is exemplified on "Let's Go Sit on the Lawn," "Just a Wristwatch on My Arm," "I'm a Crawling Black Snake," Willie Dixon's "My Babe," and others. Accompanied only by himself on guitar (and oh what a guitar he plays), Leonard Gaskin (bass), and Herb Lovelle (drums), Hopkins' seductive, intricate guitar picks and strums will dance around in your head long after this CD has played. His voice, which sounds like it's aged in Camels and Jim Beam, conveys his heartfelt sagas to the fullest. A prolific songwriter, Hopkins wrote every song except the Dixon tune.
This superb DVD includes a selection of easy to absorb lessons that are designed to teach the beginner guitarist some of the essential basics of BLUES guitar playing. Over the course of this DVD you will learn some essential lead guitar techniques such as string bending, hammer on and pull off, sliding, and vibrato that can also be other styles of guitar playing from jazz to metal.
Pruning 16 tracks from Hopkins' extensive catalog for a best-of meant that some hard choices had to be made. The ones Rhino came up with won't satisfy everyone, but the label did take the correct road by sticking exclusively to the earliest part of his career, 1947-61. Perhaps the decision will offend some fans who feel that his 1960s and '70s work should be represented, but two things should be acknowledged. First, Hopkins, as is the case with most artists, did his most interesting recordings in the earlier part of his career. Second, as is the case with many blues artists, he did not vary his approach substantially throughout the decades. So what you have is a good assortment of his first 15 years on disc, taken from about ten labels, including both originals and covers, and placing the singer/guitarist in various instrumental contexts: with a full electric band (Sonny Terry is on a couple of 1961 cuts), as a solo guitarist, or accompanied by nothing more than a bass or additional guitarist.