Saturday, 26 September 2009

Rockin' Song of the Week No. 74 - Lightnin' Hopkins - They Wonder Who I Am

Lightnin' Hopkins - They Wonder Who I Am
Herald 449 (1954)

If you thought hard rockin’ blues starts and ends with John Lee Hooker I’ll assume you haven’t heard Lightnin’ Hopkins on Herald. He had more labels than a recycled can but it was at Herald where he was at his rawest, brilliant best. One of my favourite songs is his slow blues, California Showers, but that’s not what I’m on about here. I’m listening to They Wonder Who I Am, one of the hardest-assed blues songs ever.

In two mammoth sessions in Houston, Texas in April 1954, Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins recorded no less than 26 songs. Backing himself on guitar, he had Donald Cooks on bass and Ben turner on drums, and boy do they earn their dough. They must have been sweating like rapists by the time they finished They Wonder Who I Am, not mention Lightnin's Boogie or Hopkins' Sky Hop. They Wonder Who I Am is nuthin’ but a roadhouse stomp as Brother Flip says, absolutely tenacious with Lightnin’ playing the most ferocious guitar you’re likely to hear. It might always sound like it’s in tune, but it always sounds like the guy is in the mood to boogie. “Now somebody asked me, please tell me who you am, soon as they found out, this is ain’t nothin’ but blues singing Sam.” Now, that might not be the exact lyric, because Lightnin’ was renowned for being hard to understand. I remember the Blues According to Lightnin’ Hopkins documentary where they had to have subtitles for his talking. And then there’s Fishing Clothes, or Sufficient Clothes. Ah, what a legend.

No comments: