During his long career, Lightnin' Hopkins did more than his share of label hopping; Aladdin, Folkways, Mercury, Arhoolie, Decca, Ivory, Vee-Jay, Modern, World Pacific, Verve, Fire, Jewel, Gold Star/Jax and Herald are among the countless labels that the Texas bluesman recorded for over the years. Hopkins also recorded for Prestige, where he provided around 11 or 12 LPs from 1960-64 – some on Prestige/Bluesville, some on Prestige/Folklore and some on simply Prestige – and in 1991 (nine years after his death), all of those recordings were united on Fantasy's seven-CD box set The Complete Prestige/Bluesville Recordings. Among hardcore blues collectors, that set is held in high regard. But for those who have a more casual interest in Hopkins' legacy, The Best of Lightnin' Hopkins would be a more appropriate starting point. This 66-minute, 16-track CD underscores Prestige's willingness to record Hopkins in a variety of settings – some electric and some acoustic, some unaccompanied and some with other musicians. These 1960-64 recordings came at a time when people in the folk market were paying a lot of attention to acoustic country blues, and even though Hopkins wasn't a folk artist per se, his earthy, down-home simplicity appealed to folk audiences – a simplicity that serves him well whether he is unaccompanied on "You Is One Black Rat" and "Blues in the Bottle" or joined by other musicians on "Katie Mae," "Pneumonia Blues" and Big Joe Williams' "Baby Please Don't Go" (which received the heavy metal/hard rock treatment from Motor City Madman Ted Nugent in the late '70s). The Best of Lightnin' Hopkins doesn't pretend to tell the entire story of Hopkins' Prestige output, but for novices, it can be a rewarding introduction to his four-year association with that label.
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