Reviewed by Martin de Leon II, Fri., June 17, 2005
Lightnin' Strikes Twice (Koch)
Lightnin' Hopkins deserves his own postage stamp. From his early playing days in the 1920s to wandering around Houston until he was discovered, Hopkins laid it all out on the table, hot and simple like Sunday breakfast. On this excellent 2-CD set, rarities and achingly intimate tracks rub elbows. Through almost 40 songs, you get to know his genius: rambling rhymes, scatterbrained lyricism, and a syrupy guitar style that moans like loud heartaches. The tiny joys of the blues, as Lightnin' proves, are found in the quiet plucks, thin breaths, and the hurtful pauses between words. Each twangy strum represents a history: how Lightnin' lost love, hates his gal, or how some other gal did him wrong. Songs like "Lightnin's Love" tell it like it is through delicious picking that seems to climb stairs, while "Rock Me Late at Night" goes all R. Kelly and finds him asking some young lady to get warm with him. Like his influence on avant-garde rappers Beans and Saul Williams and indie-rock crooners TV on the Radio, Lightnin' Hopkins' improvised lyricism sets him apart from the countless Blind Lemons something that will keep him on our record players for the ages.