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Mojo Hand: The Life and Music of Lightnin' Hopkins (Brad & Michele Moore Roots Music Series) Hardcover – 25 Apr 2013
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"Mojo Hand covers all the pivotal moments in his fascinating life through narrative punctuated with large, unwieldy chunks of oral history - both from first and secondary sources. Though thoroughly researched, as befits its genesis as the late Tim O'Brien's dissertation for the University of Houston, it turns Hopkins' story into an excellent reference tool rather than a thrilling page turner." Mojo "The biography maintains a focus centered on Lightnin' and his music...He has crafted a fascinating, well-researched look at a true blues legend, and helps us understand the social environment that created such powerful music." Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois
"Mojo Hand covers all the pivotal moments in his fascinating life through narrative punctuated with large, unwieldy chunks of oral history – both from first and secondary sources. Though thoroughly researched, as befits its genesis as the late Tim O’Brien’s dissertation for the University of Houston, it turns Hopkins’ story into an excellent reference tool rather than a thrilling page turner." (Mojo)
"The biography maintains a focus centered on Lightnin’ and his music….He has crafted a fascinating, well-researched look at a true blues legend, and helps us understand the social environment that created such powerful music." (Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
That being said, the book is largely well researched, and has a veritable wealth of information on Lightnin's transition into the world of young aspiring white folkies & aspiring musicians . I loved this, particularly the specifics on the Houston "underground" Blues-Rock scene that was so formative in the early sixties.
After reading, I passed this book onto a close friend in Texas...one who knew Lightnin' personally, and had gigged behind him in Houston on several occasions. My friend was overjoyed with the details of Lightnin's Houston doins', and it brought back vivid & joyous memories of this wonderful seminal Bluesman for him. Theres a lot to be said for that...
What I find puzzling is why O'Brien--or anyone else--is interested in Lightning's biography. True, it's hard to understand why any musician would ever be as equally fascinating as his music, excepting sacred monsters like Wagner, but surely what a blues lover wants to know about is Lightning's music. And while O'Brien includes enough about his recordings to make this book worthwhile, mostly it's about Lightning's miserable life.
Let's face it--Lightning was a wastrel, a street guy who didn't give a hoot about anything except drinking, gambling, and ignoring any demands by relatives or friends that didn't suit his vagabond life. If he didn't have a musical gift, he would never have been heard of ourtise his neighborhood in Houston.
What would have been preferable to his "biography" would have been some information about his influences. For example, was his very distinctive guitar style derived from any earlier Texas players? Vague references to Blind Lemon aren't helpful: Lemon played an almost entirely different style, more accomplished and virtuoso than Lightning, playing alternating runs on the bass and treble strings, finger-picking, breaking up the rhythm to great effect, whereas Lightning from the start thumps the bass string of the chord he's playing and picks out runs on the treble with his index finger, never varying the rhythm except playing sometimes in a fast tempo, sometimes in a slow one.
Don't misunderstand: I love Lightning's playing. I can listen to five cuts in a row that begin with Lightning sliding down to an E chord on the fifth fret and using basically the same slow blues licks without feeling even slightly bored. But where did this style come from? Did he make it up? (I admit I've never heard any earlier players who sound like him, but my knowledge of Texas blues recordings of the 1920s-30s is modest.)
Also, while we're told that Lightning learned a lot of his blues from Texas Alexander, we don't hear anything further about his vocal influences. Who were they?
A discussion of what happened when Lightning went from being a solo performer on his Aladdin, Gold Star, and Modern recordings to a succession of side with Donald Cooks on bass and usually a drummer would be worth reading. Myself, I think this was a negative because Lightning no longer had to rely on some of his solo techniques and let the rhythm do the work for him. Perfectly legitimate, of course, but did it allow him to become less creative and to "phone in" some of his performances.
Was Lightning's style improved by using a heavily amplified electric guitar? People who think HOPKINS SKY HOP on Herald is one of his best instrumentals ought to ask themselves what it would sound like played on an acoustic or a lightly amplified instrument.
What's Lighting's best side? I'd nominate FAST LIFE WOMAN, but the vocal on HELLO, CENTRAL is amazingly poignant.
Much more poignant than Lightning's bio, so I hope the next writer who chooses him for a subject concentrates on his music and spares us the details of his uninteresting life.