Rated as: Collection
Compilation Status: Obsolete
Specific Genre: Acoustic Texas Blues
Main Genre: Acoustic Blues, Blues
Label: Universe [Italy]
Disc 1: 1.1 Coffee Blues 1.2 Gotta Move 1.3 Freight Train 1.4 Don’t Think I’m Crazy 1.5 Dirty House Blues 1.6 Everything Happens to Me 1.7 Cairo Blues [by Lil‘ Son Jackson] 1.8 Bad Whiskey [by Lil‘ Son Jackson] 1.9 Ground Hog Blues [by Lil‘ Son Jackson] 1.10 Automobile Blues 1.11 Got to Go [Zolo Go] 1.12 Unsuccessful Blues 1.13 Rollin‘ Woman Blues 1.14 Big Mama Jump (Little Mama Blues) 1.15 Ida Mae 1.16 Shining Moon 1.17 Give Me Central (Hello Central) 1.18 Contrary Mary 1.19 Bald Headed Woman
Disc 2: 2.1 One Kind Favor (See that My Grave Is Kept Clean) 2.2 I Wonder Why 2.3 Tap Dance Boogie 2.4 Down to the River 2.5 New Short Haired Woman 2.6 Broken Hearted Blues 2.7 New York Boogie 2.8 Long Way from Texas 2.9 Mad as I Can Be [Tell Me Boogie] 2.10 I’m Beggin‘ You 2.11 Why Did You Get Mad at Me? 2.12 Home in the Woods [No Good Woman] 2.13 Praying Ground Blues 2.14 Back Home Boogie 2.15 Studio Chatter/My Heart to Weep 2.17 New Worried Life Blues 2.18 I’ll Never Forget the Day [You Do Too]
John Lee Hooker told me one day, he said: if you don’t get it like this you’re wrong
Let’s see, there is a lot to unpack here. This is advertised as the sessions for the „Sittin‘ In With“ label, issued by an obscure Italian label („Universe“) focusing on vintage reissues. And while a slight majority of the tracks in fact stems from these 1951 sessions (in New York and Houston), there are some tracks that Hopkins made in 1948/49 for the Gold Star Records label (1.10–1.16, with 1.14 „Big Mama Jump“ actually from 1947). Several of the tracks were issued later, under labels such as Mainstream, Time, Jax and Mercury.
This makes some sense: Producer Bob Shad had founded numerous labels, Sittin‘ In With, Time, Jax, Mainstream and others, then later sold Sittin‘ In With to Mercury (under which umbrella he started EmArcy, so Bob Shad turns out to be… something of a giant. He is also the grandfather of Judd Apatow. Judd’s sister Mia Apatow manages the label’s properties nowadays). And Shad issued records under his labels that were licensed from and had been earlier recorded by the Gold Star label. This explains the numerous labels involved – they all had something to do with Bob Shad and all the recordings were made – at least very roughly – during contiguous sessions.
This is where the good news for this compilation stop because to say that the obscure „Universe“ label here did a shoddy job would be an understatement. Let’s see: First, there is no rhyme or reason to what made this double disc from these sessions. These are neither the complete Sittin‘ In With sessions nor is there are a comprehensive approach to the sublabel tracks. Secondly, here is no sense at all in the few scattered Gold Star tracks, no comprehensiveness, no session cohesion, no chronology. Lots of holes. Furthermore, some of the information and track titles are plain wrong („Somebody’s Got to Go“ here is a different number called „Zolo Go“ or „Zologo“). Worst of all, contrary to the information given here, three of the tracks were not recorded by Lightnin‘ Hopkins at all: „Cairo Blues“, „Bad Whiskey“, and, in a major plot twist, the bloody [i]title track[/i] „Ground Hog Blues“ from 1948/49 (for Gold Star). Why? Gold Star also housed a young aspiring bluesman called Lil‘ Son Jackson (check out his discography for reference), who could mimic Hopkins to a tee as he learned the blues from his mentor and who is often lumped together on large Texas blues compilations alongside Hopkins and others.
This kind of reckless editing gives me fits. Even worse: This collection is completely obsolete, as you can get the entire sessions elsewhere, with no holes and no need for scavenging needlessly scattered tracks on other collections. The definite one being JSP’s All the Classics: 1946–1951. In fairness, that huge collection for some reason misses „Tap Dance Boogie“ and „You Do Too (I’ll Never Forget the Day)“, both of which are here. But you can get those and more on serious collection like Hello Central – The Best of Lightnin‘ Hopkins (which incidentally has some tracks missing on All the Classics).
So, be all that as it may: This is an obsolete, borderline useless slapdash cheapo ragbag to which you should give no serious consideration. The music here of course is laidback, great acoustic and electric Texas blues, but the poor and careless research ruins the fun of owning this set with overall great music. There are numerous collections that are far more serious and superior. I also worry at night about the fact that this has become one of the more wide-spread compilations, but maybe I should know better.