Song of the Week: Meet Me in the Bottom, Lightnin’ Hopkins

Click Here to Listen to “Meet Me in the Bottom,” by Lightnin’ Hopkins

Have you ever really looked at lightning? It’s hard to believe something that elemental and raw is completely organic. But it is—and so is Lightnin’ Sam Hopkins. A Texas bluesman, Hopkins learned guitar as a young man from wandering players that passed through his corner of the Lone Star State. Like so many black musicians who grew up in the 30s and 40s, these bits and pieces of music fermented in his brain and then flowed out of his fingertips in a mature and original style.

There’s no backing band here, though you might be excused for thinking so—Hopkins does it all with his own two hands. Well, I suppose he doesn’t do it all with his hands: the percussion you hear is his foot. He handles the bass line, the rhythm, and the lead picking simultaneously, spewing out simple licks that taken together form a comprehensive whole that beggars belief.

The typical blues scale only has about six notes, which makes the creativity of his playing even more astounding. He’s not spouting musical clichés. He’s not even inventing them. He uses the same notes as a hundred other blues players, but manages to spin them in ways that no one else did.

And have I mentioned the song rocks? No point in trying to replicate it though—you can’t. It would be as difficult as trying to catch…well, you know.