Saturday, May 14, 2011

For a Song: See See Rider

Lightnin‘ Hopkins: See See Rider


While we are on the subject of the blues, let me present Lightnin’ Hopkins. Hopkins was one of those bluesmen who disappeared and was then rediscovered during the folk music revival of the 60s. Lightnin’ Hopkins, to my mind, is best appreciated as a solo artist, playing acoustic guitar. Listen to his See See Rider, and you might think that he was a sloppy player who couldn’t keep time. But that is because we are used to blues fitting a tight, even restrictive, format. Hopkins knew just what he was doing, and his guitar obeyed his will. Yes, he would elongate or compress musical phrases, especially when he soloed. But the result was a dramatic tension and release. Hopkins made the blues an unsettled music about unsettled emotions. His music has a real power that most blues players nowadays cannot or will not achieve. That doesn’t mean that their music is bad, but it doesn’t have the untamed feeling that Hopkins achieved. In the course of his career, Hopkins also made many recordings with small groups, and there is some great music there as well. But group settings tended to reign him in, and his solo works are it for me.


Mark Tulk said...

l love ol' lightnin'! what an awesome guy! love the out-of-tuneness, out-of-timeness etc. all adds to the character and "feel"... so much of what's missing in a lot of modern music and studio production. as a producer & musician myself, i still don't get why some people place "perfection" over "feel" and performance... if you're good enough... i guess you can try to shoot for both?! :)

thanks for your great site!