R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

Gettin' Straight

16 NOV 12 DAVID SHANNON

I like my blues streamlined: light instrumentation (acoustic guitar or amplified bass/drum/guitar trio) and songs that touch on basic, universal themes, such as honesty and lies, good times and bad luck, and of course, love. On Straight Blues, a '60s-era collection of original and traditional tunes originally released on Prestige/Bluesville and reissued by Original Blues Classics, the iconic and prolific Lightnin' Hopkins showcases the many moods of the blues but never wavers from his plain-dealing approach.

The first four tracks on the album are solo, rough-hewn Hopkins, the middle two add bass and drums in a stripped-down studio combo and the last half of the collection captures Hopkins as a live trio. Whatever the context, Hopkins brings to bear his penchant for colorful storytelling and distinct fingerpicking style. His solo version of "Good Morning Little School Girl" is a straight shot of standard blues, while the studio recording of "Get It Straight" is a stub-nosed slug, coming in at just under two jangling minutes.  It's fitting that the albums closes with the live stuff. The raw, energetic "You Is One Black Rat," the drawn-out, forlorn "Got Nowhere To Lay My Head," and the low, shuffling stomp of "Take Me Back" represent essential blues.

Hopkins, who had a reputation as something of a free spirit, nonetheless rarely left his home state of Texas to perform when he got his start in the late-'40s and '50s. Still, when he sings "I ain't got no home in my heart," on the stirring "I Don't Want To Do Nothing To You," you believe it.