This review is for the 1990 CD release on Prestige Bluesville, catalogue number OBCCD 506-2 (BV 1045). With 11 songs recorded in the summer of 1961, the total running time of the disc is slightly over 41 minutes.
Featuring just Lightnin' Hopkins and his acoustic guitar, the first thing worthy of mention is the sound quality. It is excellent, as if it were recorded only yesterday. Judged on its own merits, without having heard the original vinyl release from 1961, I'd say this seems to be a relatively faithful transfer from the original tapes.
Occasionally during louder passages the guitar does distort slighty, but that's most likely down to the microphone being positioned too close and overloading a little. Hopkins wasn't a man of attempting multiple takes or returning to make corrections. Recording was often a one-shot deal with him, so a tiny flaw of that nature certainly wouldn't have been of concern at the time. And it really shouldn't be of concern to modern listeners as it is only occasional.
Despite the good sound quality, one thing which may bother the more puritanically-minded Blues fan is the mix. It's stereo. This means Hopkins' voice is in one speaker, his guitar in the other. I know a lot of fans prefer a mono mix in this type of one-man situation, but this album was never released in mono. So for those who would complain, it's stereo or nothing.
Another thing to mention concerning the mix; listening through headphones the guitar occasionally pans to the centre for a few seconds before returning to the side. This sounds like a mixing choice rather than a mastering flaw because I noticed it only happening at a couple of brief points where Hopkins wasn't singing, as if the intention was to to allow the single guitar to fill out both speakers. But as with the distortion issue, it's only an occasional thing. And it's not something you'd probably notice without headphones.
So, how about the music? It's authentic acoustic Blues, with one or two rough edges which are only to be expected during a single-shot recording session of this type. If you've heard the Hopkins' material taped by Folkways in 1959 this is very similar in style, but at times with a lighter and more upbeat feel.
If you've never heard Lightnin' Hopkins but already enjoy the likes of the 1965 recordings by Son House, or Mississippi Fred McDowell's 1962 acoustic excursions, you'll probably find this an amiable companion. Although cut from a similar cloth, it's far more relaxed in style than those two examples, so makes for a nicely mellower alternative.
The tracklist is;
Buddy Brown's Blues Wine Spodee-O-Dee Sail On, Little Girl DC-7 Death Bells Goin' To Dallas To See My Pony Run Jailhouse Blues Blues In The Bottle Beans, Beans, Beans Catfish Blues My Grandpa Is Old Too!
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