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Hopkins gets star treatment in compilation

Mojo Hand: The Anthology
Mojo Hand: The Anthology
By Lightnin' Hopkins

Rhino Records: 1993

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This review first appeared in the Spring 1994 edition of Blues Revue Quarterly magazine (now Blues Revue).

This may be the best introduction to Lightnin' Hopkins music yet. Beautifully annotated and illustrated with a large selection of material, "Mojo Hand" is just a standout collection.

There are 41 songs included in this two-CD set, many with spoken introductions from Hopkins. The sound quality is uniformly excellent. The accompanying booklet, with extensive biographical notes by Greg Drust and numerous photographs, is a treasure.

Rhino has given us a broad musical history of Hopkins' career, from solo acoustic settings to jazz combos to electrified boogie. We even get two cuts – "Antoinette's Blues" and "Los Angeles Boogie" – where Hopkins plays piano and organ, respectively. (And he played both as he did guitar – spare yet full, much as did Count Basie.) The recordings featured were made between 1947 and 1969, spanning Hopkins' entire recording career.

Hopkins' music remains as instantly accessible as ever; he's one of those few popular artists whose work belongs to no one time. With his clean, sharp guitar picking and clear vocals, Hopkins' presentation is as polished as any Top 40 pop star. The music, of course, is so full of soul and character that the combination will be enjoyed through the ages.

This is one of the most handsomely packaged sets out there; the musical selection is top rate, the sound quality perfect. Hopkins' role in the transition from rural acoustic blues to electrified urban blues has been well-documented elsewhere; he would make just about any list of the ten most influential artists in the history of the blues. The fact that his music is not some dusty museum piece, that his music is as sensually pleasurable as it is spiritual, only adds to the spell this package can put on the listener.