Recorded in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey in May 4-5, 1964.
Recording Engineer: Rudy Van Gelder.
Originally released on Prestige / Bluesville (PR 7377), 1966
Digital remastering by Phil De Lancie (1991, Fantasy Studios, Berkeley).
01. I’m Going to Build Me a Heaven of My Own
02. My Babe
03. Too Many Drivers
04. I’m a Crawling Black Snake
05. Rocky Mountain Blues
06. I Mean Goodbye
07. The Howling Wolf
08. Black Ghost Blues
09. Darling, Do You Remember Me
10. Lonesome Graveyard
Lightnin’ Hopkins (vocals, guitar)
Leonard Gaskin (bass)
Herbie Lovelle (drums)
Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins recorded and released so many records it is hard to know where to tell a person to start. But this record is as good a place as any, featuring him playing both with and without a band on electric and acoustic guitar. Country blues musicians such as Hopkins and contemporary Fred McDowell were not easy guys to accompany if you were a rhythm section. They frequently would change tempos and chord structures at will, and you had to be paying close attention to see a change coming or catch it quickly when it caught you off guard. There are a few places on this session where the songs almost break down but the vibe never wavers. Immaculately recorded by Rudy Van Gelder, this is one of Hopkin’s best. The CD reissue includes the rather worthless liner notes of a Houston DJ who doesn’t seem to have anything the least bit informative or insightful to say, but it was nice of Prestige to include them. I guess.
“I’m Going to Build Me A Heaven On My Own”, which is dedicated “to all the womens of the world,” is probably the strangest song I have ever heard from him. Coming off as at least partly improvised, it is a rambling, irreverent, and quite probably blasphemous bit of blues. Willie Dixon’s “My Babe” is a perfect choice for Hopkins and you can easily appreciate why he was so influential as a guitarist-singer. “Too Many Drivers” is an environmental protest song about traffic congestion and greenhouse gases. “I’m a Crawling Black Snake” is a reworking of John Lee Hooker’s “Crawling King Snake” for which he receives no credit. I could keep doing this for every song but my fingers will get tired. Why don’t you just listen to the record? The last three cuts, however, are particularly splendid. “Black Ghost Blues” is not recommended for the insomniacs out there. “Darling, Do You Remember Me?” is a uncharacteristically tender and melodic tune that is both stark and sweet — “You’re face / something I wanna see / Just to know darlin’ / you used to enjoy with me / but hello, hello darling / baby, do you remember me?” The song is Hopkins all by himself – which makes me wonder if there was a full-band take that didn’t quite work, prompting this version. It is particularly worth you attention because, freed from the obligations of playing with a rhythm section, we can see the logic of Hopkin’s improvisational flights, unanchored one moment, back in the pocket the next. The last track is one of the best ‘haunting’ blues about death and dying that was ever committed to tape, sprinkled with Hopkins’ own “gallows humor.”
This post is dedicated to Celia in Portugal who has said she’s been liking the blues posts.
Lightnin’ Hopkins – Soul Blues (1966) in 320 kbs em pee twee
Lightnin’ Hopkins – Soul Blues (1966) in FLAC LOSSLESS AUDIO
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