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Albums Of The Week: Lightnin’ Hopkins | Live From The Ash Grove… Plus!

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “By the time he took the stage for the mostly solo acoustic selections on this release, Samuel John “Lightnin’” Hopkins (1912-1982) was already well established in the blues world. Born to a poor sharecropping family in Centerville, Texas, he left home at the age of eight, carrying a guitar his brother had given him. Hopkins immersed himself in the blues at an early age, having met Blind Lemon Jefferson at a church picnic not long after having struck out on his own. He went on to play with Jefferson at a variety of informal church gatherings.

In 1946, Hopkins was “discovered” by Aladdin Records’ talent scout Lola Anne Cullum, who convinced him to travel to Los Angeles from Houston. There, he cut sides both as a solo artist and as part of a duo with pianist Wilson Smith. It was during his stint at Aladdin that he acquired his nickname, while his partner was dubbed “Thunder.” Shortly thereafter, Hopkins returned to Houston, which would remain his home base for the balance of his life, though he traveled extensively.

He was a world-class song improviser and performer, but it was as a guitarist that Hopkins had the most impact. Jimmie Vaughan once said that without Hopkins, there would be no Jimi Hendrix, and in fact Hendrix’s record collection boasted more Hopkins LPs than any artist other than Bob Dylan. B.B. King, no slouch on the guitar himself, opined that “Lightnin’ Hopkins may not have known many notes, but he knew the right ones, and he knew where to put them.” And a 2010 survey of the 100 best and most influential guitarists in rock history placed Hopkins at 71, right between Joni Mitchell and Eddie Van Halen. Hopkins songs have been covered by Van Morrison, Dion, B.B. King, the Grateful Dead, Johnny Winter, Hank Williams Jr., Townes Van Zandt and many others.

The first 14 tracks featured on Live from the Ash Grove… Plus! were recorded on Nov. 29, 1970. These selections comprise the A-side of the vinyl configuration. Both the vinyl and CD feature an additional six bonus tracks, including two songs recorded at the Ash Grove on Sept. 22, 1965, and four songs recorded at In Your Ear in Palo Alto on Aug. 18, 1971. Live From The Ash Grove… Plus! includes new liner notes by Thane Tierney.”